Privilege Blog

Antwerp Fashion, Real And Imagined

Antwerpen Centraal. A train station. A beautiful train station. From the era of decorative iron.

Thursday, my friend and I traveled from her small town in Belgium into Antwerp. Antwerp has a cathedral. Antwerp also observes Ascension Day by closing all its stores. Hmm. I saw the cathedral. Beautiful. Hung with an exhibition of Pieter Paul Rubens* paintings. More beautiful. I also saw the outside of the Dries Van Noten store, at Nationalestraat 16. Also beautiful.

I thought all Dries Van Noten clothes looked like this.

Like Antwerp weather. Neutral. Functional. A certain austere beauty. Well, Mr. Van Noten has evolved. Jakarta meets Palm Springs. I bet Jonathan Adler loves Mr. Van Noten.

That’s what I saw in the window. It wasn’t an anomaly. This is what Dries showed for spring.

And the fall.

Where have I been? His stuff is wildly beautiful. (And brutally expensive, but, yeah, well, the window-shopping is free.) The kind of classic to which I am doomed by my genetic heritage, made up in colors and fabrics that make you want to sleep with them. For those of us with Sturdy Gal leanings, Dries Van Noten is Artsy Cousin in a box. Risk-free. Constructed from a luxe set of materials that the Grande Dame would not shun. Not at all.

Despite the Ascension Day store closings, Dries piqued my curiosity about Belgian designers. So let’s pretend I saw some other stuff. Let’s take some photos from the ever useful Style.Com, and intersperse a few snapshots of the Belgian things I did instead of going into stores. And if those things seem to mostly include food, well, I have nothing to say about that.

Apparently other Antwerp designers we might visit include Walter Van Beirendonck. Off we go to. But on the way to Walter’s store we see this.

We take note. McGregor is a European company with the tag line, “New York 1921.” Go get ’em J. Crew. Don’t concede your sweet spot in chasing Anthropologie. Even Belgium is doing neo-prep this year. Pink and green. We proceed down imaginary streets to find Mr. Beirendonck at Sint-Antoniusstraat 12. Deemed “trash-cool.” Well then.

Walter also offers a fairly unique take on pink and green wear for men. For those unable to reconcile their Lily heritage with hipster yearnings.

Now imagine these. Courtesy the lobby of the Antwerp Hilton. Centrally located and quite convenient. Not closed on Ascension Day.

Fortified, we continue.

We would love to visit Oliver Theyskens, but he has moved on to design for Nina Ricci, or Veronique Branquinho, but she has shut down her line. While it’s been announced that Veronique has begun to design shoes for Camper, and bags for the classic Brussels leather goods concern, Delvaux, we’re going to guess there’s no store with beautiful windows in Antwerp. At least not yet. So in our imaginations, we try one last place. Ann Demeulemeester., on Leopold de Waelplaats.

I do not believe that at this point in my life I will be wearing a leather brassiere much. Even if I liked the look, the discomfort is too severe for Sturdy Gals of any age.

Imaginatively shopped out, dreaming of Dries, amused by Walter, and uninterested in Ann, we eat dinner. At De Peerdestal. Ceiling of dark wood beams, tables covered with white cloths, walls roughly plastered. Exactly what an American might predict for Belgium. No mussels, instead we eat langoustines and taglietelle and lick our fingers as Americans will. Take a more delicate approach to the white asparagus in vinaigrette. Drink red wine. Push away from the table.

What’s real and what is imagined are often hard to separate. Fashion likes it that way.

*That’s what the Belgians call him. When in Antwerp, etc.

Images (because photo credits are not imaginary)
Antwerp Centraal – me
Dries Van Noten store – me
Dries Van Noten coat –
Dries Van Noten pants – me
Dries Van Noten skirt –
Dries Van Noten pants and jacket from runway –
, and here
McGregor store window – me
Walter’s tshirt – Walter’s online shop
Fries – me
Ann Demeulemeester – Ann D.’s site
Ann Demeulemeester –
Dinner – me

Additional Resources
If you want more about the original Antwerp Six, read this
Those dedicated to serious shopping might want to read about discount clothes shopping in Antwerp.

18 Responses

  1. Feel like I've just had a nice trip over my late lunch. Thanks. That third pic is esp magical.

  2. Van Noten is known for the most sumptuous Indian and Asian fabrics, among the quiet solids. So glad you got to swoon over the clothes in person. If could, would wear little else. White asparagus, what a marvelous time!

  3. I would fly to Belgium for those fries. Right now……..where's my damn passport?

  4. the centraal station is so lovely! reminds me of its cousin in amsterdam, visited a lifetime ago. i would wear a leather bra, i think, but i wouldn't tell anyone i was wearing it, and perhaps that's no fun.

  5. Window-shopping is ok, if you don´t want to buy anything. DvN would have been an interesting place to shop something from though. I also like his style. Available online too, but I would really wish to try them on first. I now understand what you mean by the colors. He is brave in mixing the unusual ones.

  6. I just looked at actual Dries Van Noten clothing for the first time yesterday, as opposed to ogling photos online. I was amazed at how sumptuous and yet elegant they were. Funny you should post about them today also. I didn't take photos. I didn't post photos on my blog either. Perhaps I should have.

  7. I lived in Antwerp as a little girl and it remains the place in Europe that's closest to my heart. Others can have their Paris, Rome or London – I'll take an order of kip mit fritje and the Silvius Brabo statue any day of the week.

  8. There's a Van Noten store in Paris now too. I am tempted to go hunt him down somewhere in San Francisco…

  9. I've been madly in love with Dries since I purchased my first pair of his shoes on a sale rack at Fred Segal over 15 years ago. I've never bought one article of clothing (although one pair of shoes) for full price. I would if I could, however. He is a genius and yes these past two seasons have been a bit adventurous but this fall's new line is amazing! Ann D. definitely does a white shirt you would love to wear. I am in love with her shoes especially. (She can get a bit rock n'roll – Patty Smith is her muse) You'll find Dries in SF at Barney's and probably Neimann's or Sak's. Did you see Sophie D"hoore? Definitely High Wasp. No worries. You'll be stalking the sale racks at Barney's soon too. Yum those fries. xo,jools

  10. Dries is GENIUS. At some point, designers merge their creative selves with the commercial nature of the business and the result is the fashonista's boon. I do believe that DVN is just hitting his stride because of this maturity.
    We missed each other by just two days on the return loop. I left Paris on Tuesday. Next time we should organize our travel schedules a little better, don't you agree? Sometime soon;somewhere on the planet.

  11. Glad you got to see the Dries van Noten store, gorgeous clothes – if only I could afford them! And did you make it to Walter van B's place – is it still in the old garage?

  12. Ooooh, so much eye candy in this post Miss Privilege, especially the pink van Noten jacket and the van Beirendonck, just like sherbet!

    It's so wonderful to know you had a good trip, that is just excellent!

  13. I've been really enjoying your Paris posts. My mother is a devotee and goes a couple of times a year. If you venture to Paris again…email me. My husband and I found a fabulous little restaurant that has become a mainstay for any visit.

    Oh, and Dries…sigh

  14. Antwerp is a great city! My personal favourite in Flanders, even being a Belgian expat myself. On that note… We call him Pieter Paul Rubens (pronounced Peter), sometimes even Pieter Pauwel, but I never heard of Piers before ;) Sigh.. I do miss this place.

    1. Thank you for the correction! Not clear how I made that mistake, since I must have looked it up, but I do love a good copy edit:). I was surprised by just how much I liked Antwerp – it doesn’t get the PR it deserves.

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