Rubens, Diamonds, Fashion! Antwerp, that little city in the North of Belgium, has a lot going for it. Today, we leave the paintings and the fancy rocks to the side, and focus on the third standout quality its known for: The art of fashion!
A lot of Antwerp’s reputation as a fashion mega city hails from the famous Antwerp Six, a group of six designers that all met during their studies at the famous Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Among them are some famous names. Dries van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene, Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck and Marina Yee turned the fashion world around with their avant-garde approach to making clothes, and their influence is still seen everywhere in the city. Include another maverick with the name of Martin Margiela into the mix, and you understand why fashion fans from all over the world come here not only for the sample sales.
Showing us around today is Tiany Kiriloff, Belgian fashion super star and TV host with her own popular fashion website belmodo.tv. The lovely mother of two lives close to Antwerp, and brought a giant list of shopping destinations with her to meet us. Come along, put on your best outfit, and pack some sensible shoes as Tiany spends 12 hours with us in the inofficial Belgian capital of fashion.
Antwerp has some great hotels to offer, from high-end luxury chains in historic buildings to no-frills budget options. But instead of going down that well-travelled route, Tiany has something else in mind.
Her tip: Yellow Submarine, an amazing Bed & breakfast right in the city center. The owners earn their money with their communications agency of the same name, so their B&B (and the adjoining coffee bar) are a lovely side-project they can pour their hearts in.Yellow submarine features only three rooms in two different sizes, so book early. All rooms come equipped with rain showers, beautiful designer furniture, and lovely welcome gifts.
Yellow Submarine // Falconplein 51 // Website
Pictures: Yellow Submarine
“I am not a breakfast-kinda-girl”, says Tiany. So instead of patries or waffles, we are heading over to Barnini for just a coffee. Her choice: A soy latte. The cute café full of vintage décor offers a great selection of unique coffee drinks, including one with the taste of Speculoos, the spiced biscuits you find all over Belgium and the Netherlands. If, unlike Tiany, you crave some food to get the day going, try one of their amazing Bagels. You can find their daily specials on Barnini’s Facebook page.
Barnini // Oude Vaartsplaats 10 //Mon-Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 8am-5pm // Website
It’s easy to get around in Antwerp, the city is small enough to be explored by foot. If that’s not your cup of tea, rent yourself a bike at one of the many bike stations that are scattered around town. You just sign up on Velo Antwerpen and buy yourself a daily (if you’re staying longer: weekly) pass, and off you go.
No matter if you’re on foot or two wheels, Tiany is heading to the shopping paradise around Schuttershofstraat next, so that’s where you’re going, too. Antwerp is a shopping Mecca. Even though the city is fairly small, you will find a selection of fashion and design brands here that rivals major European cities. Blame it on the vivid fashion scene, but your credit card can easily go into overdrive within just a short hours. But even if you’re low on cash, a little window shopping never hurts. And you might as well get some inspiration now, maybe it helps you on your hunt for a coveted vintage item later in the day. But for now, let’s focus on the shiny world of brands, expensive names and couture and let’s hear Tiany’s advice.
First of, we visit Coccodrillo shoes. This is dangerous territory even for somebody who’s used to be around pretty things like Ms. Kiriloff. ‘I could spend hours here, and always walk out with more than I had planned for’, she says. No wonder, the store is stocked with all the latest and greatest shoes from Miu Miu to Nicholas Kirkwood, and one of the few shops that sells the shoes from the Ferragamo’s Creation line, a collection of limited, numbered pieces from the Italian brand’s historic archives. These sparkly, Wizard of Oz-red high heels on Tiany’s feet? That’s where they’re from.
If you’re a guy who doesn’t happen to be into ladies’ pumps, no fear. Coccodrillo has a store dedicated to manly feet three meters away, just across the street. If you’re in there, look out for the creations of the up-and-coming brand WeberHodelFeder, they are amazing!
Coccodrillo // Schuttershofstraat 9 A-B // Mon-Sat 10am-6pm //Website
The Antwerp Six, that famous group of designers that met at the Royal Academy Of Fine Arts and went on to become one of the most influential forces in the industry, is still alive and well in the city. Case in point, The Ballroom. Walter van Beirendonck’s store and showroom is showcasing Antwerp fashion at its best, with the designer himself or one of his colleagues often present.
On our visit, Dirk Van Saene showed Tiany around and let us have a close look on all the beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces designed by him, van Beirendonck, Frieda Degeyter and Sophie d’Hoore. The beautiful space is hidden on the first floor of the building, but once you climb up the stairs, you’ll feel welcome and at home. The current showroom is only temporary, though. Within 2013, the designer will move his shop up the street, right upstairs from Coccodrillo.
The Ballroom // Komedieplaats 17, Entrance Ketelstraat, 1st floor // Wed-Sat 11am-6pm // Website
A quick question can tell you in an instant if you are talking to a regular person, or a fashion maniac. Do you remember the flower arrangements at Raf Simmons’ last show for Jil Sander in Milan? And all the beautiful blossoms at his first Dior show? If you have any clue what we’re talking about, you’re in for a treat. And even if you think we completely lost track of showing you around in Antwerp, stay with us. Because what’s next is beautiful.
Tiany favorite flower happens to be the wonderful Baltimore. That little shop of wonders is crammed with roses, trees and thistles you have never seen before, with a heavenly smell in the air. Its owner, Mark Colle, happens to be good friends with fashion design wunderkind Raf Simmons, and thus was responsible for some of his most memorable showings. If only flowers weren’t so fragile, you’d find the most amazing souvenirs here. Because the prices are less Haute Couture, and more Ready-to-Wear. Meaning: You get a lot of bloom for your buck!
Baltimore // Augustijnenstraat 35 // Mon & Wed 2am-6.30pm, Tue & Thu-Sat 9.30am-6.30pm // Website
Before we leave the area around Graanmarkt, Tiany Kiriloff shows us two more notable spots on her Antwerp shopping list. Verso is located in an old bank, and the shop’s interior is just as breathtaking as the price tags of the high-end designer items that are sold here. The shop is definitely worth a visit, if only to gaze at the beautiful décor. Right next door, Wouters & Hendrix Jewelry sell their modern and absolutely tastefull jewelry creations and present them in ever-changing, beautiful displays. Have a peek!
Phew, that was a lot of fashion, time for some food! Before Tiany is taking us to her favorite lunch spot in the city, we have some exploring to do. Leaving the area around Schuttershofstraat, we are headind over to Nationaalestraat. Here, you find a different Antwerp. That of antique and vintage stores, small boutiques and cozy cafés. You’ll also walk by Dries van Noten’s amazing flagship store in a beautiful old building that belongs to his family. Walk around it, take in the breathtaking designs in the windows, but don’t bother to go in unless you have serious cash to spend. Sadly, the sales’ staff aren’t the most welcoming.
Walking down in the direction of the river from Nationaalestraat, we’re taking a left and enter Klosterstraat for our lunch destination.
In an earlier version of our guide, we visited Ra Kitchen. This beloved lunch spot has sadly closed its doors now. But don’t worry, you won’t continue your day lunch-less. Tiany has a great alternative tip, and it’s just down the street.
Chez Fred is a cozy restaurant with small wooden tables and a terrace overlooking busy Kloosterstraat. It’s open from breakfast to dinner, and while they are booked out fast at night, it’s rather easy to get a table here in the afternoon and enjoy lunch. The cuisine is traditional Belgium with a modern twist, but there are also always lots of pasta dishes and nice salads on the menu. Main dishes start at 9,50 Euro for Spaghetti Bolognese.
Chez Fred // Kloosterstraat 8 // Mon-Sun from 10am // website
With a belly full of treats, let’s step into the adjoining shops. Antwerp’s love for design comes in many shapes and forms, most notably there are two major directions you will find in the city: Cutting edge, avant-gardist work you have just seen at Ra, and classic, vintage design. So after half a day of ogling the new, luxurious, and exciting creations of some of the fashion folk, let’s travel back in time and admire what past generations have to offer.
Tiany loves herself some good vintage clothes, too. Her pick for us is Viar, an extremely charming, loft-like space just down Klosterstraat. You’ll only find one mannequin in the window, and then you’ll be taken by all the wonderful furniture. If you’re just looking for the clothes (sadly only women’s, sorry boys!), head straight to the back where you’ll find gems from mostly Belgian and French designers. On our visit, we spotted several vintage Celine pieces and even an old, original Ballet costume from Paris. But if you just have the slightest interest in design beyond fabrics, you’ll be in heaven here. The selection of interior design items from past decades is breathtaking! On your way out, don’t forget to glimpse in the big glas boxes. They are stock-full of luxury handbags and leather accessories.
Viar // Kloosterstraat 65
Now that you’re in the mood, let’s focus a bit on furniture. On your way back to Nationaalestraat, you’ll pass countless shops with windows filled with everything from wonderful to whacky. If you’re lucky, you can make great deals here. On Fridays, the famous Vrijdagmarkt takes place nearby.
For an overview of all the vintage shops around Klosterstraat, visit kloosterstraat.com
There is a reason why Antwerp’s fashion museum is on every must-see list for the Flamish city. It just is that good! The museum’s collection of clothes in uniquely impressive. Until today, the curators have collected over 25.000 items, from clothing to shoes and accessories and lace. The oldest pieces date as far back as the 16th century, some newer additions are coming from more contemporary designers such as Ann Demeulemeester, Bernhard Wilhelm and Dries von Noten.
Instead of putting these items on display in a permanent exhibition, they opted for varying thematic exhibitions on one specific designer or fashion-related topic, such as patterns or lace. Carefully curated exhibitions take you in to the mind of the creators of styles sometimes long gone, but still relevant. Past exhibitions have featured such iconic designers as Maison Martin Margiela, Yohji Yamamoto or Madame Grès.
The whole thing is housed in the ModeNatie, a beautiful building complex that also hosts the world-famous fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Before you leave: The bookstore at the entrance feels like a small museum itself, with shelves full of beautiful editions about design, fashion and architecture.
MOMU: Fashion Museum Province Of Antwerp // Nationalestraat 28 // Tue-Sun 10am-5pm, Admission: 5 Euro //website
Pictures: Sonja Dewolf, MoMu
So much inspiration, that should give you enough energy for one final round of clothes hunting. And this one’s really worth it, Tiany saved some of her best tips for last: ‘There are many great boutiques in this city that sell used designer items for a fraction of their original price’, she explains. Her favorite hunting grounds are just a short walk away from the fashion museum.
Heading over on the other side of Nationaalestraat, she leads us through nice shopping streets full of vintage stores and street wear shops into a more residential area. And just when we think that we got lost, we arrive at the junction of Rosier and Aalmoezenierstraat. Here, you’ll find both Rosier 41 and a bit further down, Labels Inc. Both shops don’t look like a lot from the outside, but on the racks you’ll find carefully selected designer items, most of them barely used, for a bargain. They also sell shoes and accessories for both men and women.
And lastly, one of the favorite places of the 12hrs team: Ra! Ra is maybe Antwerp’s most notorious concept store. Labelled an ‘interactive space’, it is as much a showcase of progressive fashion as it is a clothes store. Wander around the floor and take that chance to actually get a close-up look of all those weirdly interesting clothes. You might not pull off a sparkly jumpusuit or that cape and Buffalo boots, but looking at it is fun as hell. Their selection of shoes and accessoires for both women and men is extensive, and there is always a small but especially stellar selection of special vintage pieces on the racks. Don’t miss them!
The shop was previously located in Kloosterstraat, but has moved now. It’s now located in another city part (find the new address below) and on the first floor. Our photos still show the old shop, so please don’t get confused!
RA // Kleine Markt 7-9, 1st floor // Tue-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun-Mon Closed // website
Tiany’s restaurant of choice today: Marcel. The typically Belgian brasserie is located near the harbour and the new MAS museum, so we take a taxi for the short ride there (or hop on a bike, just as you like). This eatery is housed in a former church for seamen, with the beautiful facade still intact. Staff are super-friendly and quick on their feet, the open wines are all affordable and excellent, and the classic food a standout.
Restaurant Marcel // Van Schoonbekeplein 13 // Mon-Fri 12am-1.30am & 7pm-9.30pm, Sat 7pm-9.30pm // website
Pictures: Johan Blommaert, Marcel
Antwerp has a lot of great bars – you just need to find them. Tiany’s suggestion is Polymagie, a pop-up bar on trendy Kammenstraat that boosts a hip crowd, strong drinks, and great DJs at the weekends. Opened by a collective of young artists that uses the space to display art, designers and upcoming bands alike, it attracts artsy types and laid-back folks. From here, you’ll be able to walk back home to the B&B or take a tram to the main station to say farewell to the city of Diamonds. Check Polymagie’s Facebook page to see if they are open!
These were 12 hrs in East London! To discover more locations and stories from here, head over to the Hyères category of our blog! Just click HERE.
These were 12hrs in Antwerp. Where do you want to go next?
These were 12hrs in Antwerp. Where do you want to go next?