If you're in-the-know in terms of fashion then I'm sure you know that Belgium is home to some of the most celebrated designers of our time. Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck, Haider Ackerman, Raf Simons, Kris Van Ascche, Dirk Bikkembergs and Dries Van Noten are just some of the few Belgian designers who have shaped the world of fashion. Antwerp as we all know is the home of the Antwerp 6, a group of influential avant garde designers who graduated from the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980-81. The elite group is comprised of Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee, Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, AF Vandevorst and Dirk Bikkembergs.
I always look forward to visiting Belgium because of its amazing boutiques and stylish inhabitants. And you never know who you will run into whenever you're strolling around its chic streets. Aside from meeting Christophe Coppens in Brussels I randomly bumped into Walter Van Beirendonck at MoMu in Antwerp. Too bad I was a bit shy for a photo op moment. Actually, I've seen him three times already-twice in Paris and once in Antwerp. It would be a dream-come-true to meet someone like Raf Simons, Dries Van Noten or Ann Demeulemeester (I've seen all three in person during their Paris Fashion Week shows last June but haven't gotten the opportunity to talk to them yet). They all still live in Antwerp. So, there is still some hope to my dream! Like what they say nothing is impossible!
Anyway, here are my TEN FAVORITE BOUTIQUES in BELGIUM in no particular order
B R U S S E L S
Antoine Dansaertstraat 74
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Stijl is Brussels's first Belgian designer store particularly focusing on Belgium's premiere designers like Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Van Saene, Dries Van Noten, Raf Simons, Walter Van Beirendonck and Dirk Bikkembergs to name a few. Presently, Stijl also carries other notable avant garde designers like Rick Owens, Gustavolins, Yohan Serfaty, Cathy Pill and Lutz. Also, make sure to check out up-and-coming designer Tim Van Steenbergen's collection while you're at the store. He's definitely another break-out designer from Antwerp's growing list of important progressive designers. Don't forget to bring Daddy's BLACK AMEX because nothing in this store is cheap. I don't remember seeing anything less than 100 euros. Well, perhaps maybe you can find socks or a magazine for less than 50 euros.
2. HOET OPTIEK
Antoine Dansaertstraat 97
1000 Brussels, Belgium
If you don't want to see someone rocking the same spectacles as yours then Hoet Optiek is the place for you. Hoet Optiek carries a wide array of eye wear, eye catcher and other interesting stuff. They have some of the raddest pairs of eyewear I have ever seen in my entire life. Its flagship store in Brussels is a museum in its own right with temporary art installations and cool furniture throughout its massive space. Until now I beat myself for not picking up a pair of nerdy glasses here. Next year I'm definitely picking up a cool pair for myself. Time to save up!
Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains 6 Niewe Graanmarkt
For fashionable crunchy-granola people traveling Brussels, there's a new boutique from Sonia Noël, the owner of Stijl. Hallelujah! offers eco-friendly fashion from some of the most innovative progressive designers like Barbara I Gongini, Henrietta Ludgate, Goodone, Christopher Raeburn and Ada Zanditions. With Hallelujah!, we can all look chic and sophisticated while being conscious to the environment.
4. CHRISTOPHE COPPENS
Rue Léon Lepage 2
For the most fabulous and unique headgear turn to Christophe Coppens. I got a chance to interview this amazing Flemish accessories designer when I was at his Atelier last July. His work is really breathtakingly beautiful and very inspring. So, make sure to swing by his store. Who knows you might here the perfect hat that you've been looking for! Definitely a must for hat connoisseurs like me!
5. MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA
Margiela's only boutique in Belgium. If you are a fan of one of the most successful avant garde designers of all time then it is a must that you swing by his boutique and pay due respect! The flagship store carries most of the Margiela lines. Too bad it was under renovation when I visited so I had to settle for the temporary store. I followed the tabi footprints to get to the secret location of temporary store. It was a pretty neat concept.
A N T W E R P
Walter is one of the coolest boutiques in Antwerp curated by fashion icon Walter Van Beirendonck. It is a bit hard to find because of its sort of concealed location. But don't worry you won't get lost because everybody in Antwerp knows where WALTER is. When you walk towards the store its door automatically goes up. You go inside and gaze at this massive venetian blind forming different cool pictures. The beautifully curated lifestyle boutique carries some of the best names in avant garde fashion. Henrik Vibskov, Bernhard Willhelm, A'N'D and Walter Van Beirendonck's own line sit next to each other. Aside from the really cool clothes, the boutique also showcases unique jewelry, bad-ass furniture and mind-boggling art installations! This store is definitely a must for fashion tourists!
7. ANN DEMEULEMEESTER
I have been a fan of Ann Demeulemeester for as long as I can remember so whenever I'm in Antwerp I always make it a habit to swing by her lovely flagship boutique to get my Ann D fix. Her very spacious minimalist two-storey store in Antwerp is absolutely special because it houses her complete womenswear and menswear lines. Last time I was there the guys at the boutique were kind enough to give me last copy of their F/W 2011 lookbook as a keepsake. Ann also swings by once in awhile so make sure to say hi for me if you see her!
8. DRIES VAN NOTEN
Dries Van Noten is absolutely one of the most successful Belgian designers. His massive flagship store in Antwerp absolutely proves his growing success not just locally but internationally. Be sure to check out his beautiful boutique when you're in town.
9. ROSIER 41
If you want to wear great quality clothes without the hefty price tag then Rosier 41 is the perfect place for you. Viviane van Werelyckhuysen's boutique carries new and pre-loved designer pieces from previous collections at reasonable prices. Also, there are tons of sample pieces from all your favorite Belgian designers such as Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck and Veronique Branquinho to name a few. You just need to be there at the right time so you can score some great deals! Also, you get exceptional service and professional help from its fabulous owner Viviane. For bargain hunters I saw two pairs of Ann Demeulemeester brogues for 50 euros a piece, a F/W 2011 Rick Owens leather jacket with sherpa lining for 400 euros and a Comme Des Garcons wool jacket for 200 euros! It's definitely much cheaper compared to those fancy consignment boutiques in Paris and Tokyo!
RA rivals some of the best concept stores out there by combining kick-ass fashion, tasty food, catchy music and contemporary art in a 800 sqm space located in Antwerp. It aims to support independent designers and struggling artists. RA currently stocks some of my favorite designers such as Damir Doma, Juun.J, Rad Hourani, Bless, Butterflysoulfire, Complex Geometries and Cosmic Wonder Light Source. I was lucky to score my Rad Hourani heels at half off and a pair of sweet oversized Bless shorts for almost nothing! RA is also known to throw some of the best parties packed with beautiful people and fashionable characters!
H A P P Y S H O P P I N G !