Every weekend Antwerp is full of Dutch people who come to shop in the Flemish city. Some of them linger around the Meir, the uniform shopping street full of chains that you find in every city.
Daring or timeless
A bit of a fashion lover will turn his nose up at this and walk on to the fashion quarter, where you will find a daring or timeless piece of clothing in the boutiques of both young and established designers.
The ModeMuseum is located in the heart of the fashion district – and a five-minute walk from the Grote Markt. The elegant white building, which also houses Antwerp’s leading fashion academy, has undergone a major renovation in recent years and was able to open its doors again at the beginning of this month.
Fashion responds to society
The permanent collection is a nice introduction to the 35,000 objects that the museum owns. You can see work by now world-famous former students of the academy, but also what role the black cape or the white shirt have played in fashion over the centuries.
It gets really spectacular one floor up, with the spacious exhibition E/MOTION, which shows how fashion designers have reacted to social and political changes over the past three decades.
In other words: what is the impact of changing beauty ideals or economic crises on fashion? What Happened on the Catwalk After the Terror of 9/11? What do you see in fashion about the climate or about identity?
Gun, banana and dildo
The answers are spread over several rooms, in the form of designs by Versace, Botter, Alexander McQueen and Prada, among others.
There are striking pieces such as a bright red coat from Comme des Garçons with special pockets for a gun, banana and dildo. But also more subtle details, such as in the work of designer duo Botter, who respond to climate change with water shoes.
Fashion Walks are also organized from the ModeMuseum: fashion walks through the city, in which the guide tells in scent and color about the history of Antwerp fashion and shows the most special shops.
The fun anecdotes make fashion really come alive. Stories about Dries van Noten – he loves gardening and therefore you see a lot of floral prints on his designs – and the rest of Antwerp Six, but also a lot of attention for new talent and what makes Antwerp different from cities like London and Paris.
The fashion walk is organized every first Saturday of the month, but it is also possible to book privately.
After the Fashion Walk it is time to dive into all those shops. You can shop to your heart’s content in and around the Nationalestraat. At Ganterie Boon, for example, where handmade leather gloves have been sold for generations in the atmospheric art deco shop.
Museum pieces on the racks
Or at Labels Inc, where work by various Belgian fashion houses, but also international designers is for sale. Curators of museums also rummage through the racks here and it happened more than once that a special piece of clothing was bought in this way and ended up in a museum.
In the shop window is striking work from the graduation collection of young designer Nadav Perlman. It shows how short the lines are here between the shops and the fashion academy. Fashion is part of the city’s DNA.
The ultimate proof of this is not the colorful balls – fashion balls – that are scattered throughout the city and in which you can pose as if you were wearing a gigantic ball gown. No, the proof that Antwerp and fashion are intertwined can be found in the church.
As part of the Fashion 2.021 festival, a statue of Mary has been dressed by a designer in both the Sint-Andrieskerk and the Cathedral of Our Lady.
In the cozy Sint-Andrieskerk, where the pastor has set up a punching bag and fitness equipment for people who need to get rid of their frustration, it takes a while, but she really is there: Maria in a dress by Ann de Meulemeester.
In the cathedral, both Mary and baby Jesus are dressed by designer Edouard Vermeulen of fashion house Natan. The green color of the elegant dress symbolizes hope.
Fashion on the street, fashion in a museum and fashion in church. In Antwerp you cannot ignore it.
For this article, our editor went to Antwerp at the invitation of Tourism Flanders. The content of the article has been independently determined editorially.