Antwerp Grand Place - ©Antwerpen Toerisme en Congres

Veerle Windels

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Veerle Windels has been covering the fashion world for over twenty years, interviewing all the leading designers but she also knows the creative minds, who work behind the scenes, very well. So who better to turn to if you want to find out more about fashion ‘Made in Antwerp’?
Antwerp fashion is known the world over. When you see Japanese tourists in Antwerp, you know that they’re here for the fashion, and to a lesser extent to see paintings by Rubens or for diamonds. Commercially speaking, the city has several good multi-brand stores as well as the stores of well-known and lesser-known designers. But Antwerp also scores high in the creative stakes. Its Fashion Academy has an international reputation as a school, which likes to chart its own, individual creative course. And Antwerp is also interesting as a ‘creative studio’. It may be a small city on a global level, but it is teeming with cross-pollinations and underground initiatives. I mean: Dries Van Noten could have chosen to live in Paris, Raf Simons has been given carte blanche at Dior but yet he always chooses to return to Antwerp. It is all about Antwerp’s geographic location. You can travel to Paris or London from Antwerp in no time. There is something in the air here, which is difficult to describe, but which even draws leading designers back to Antwerp, to design, to brainstorm, to live and work here.

Veerle Windels about Antwerp, fashion city

Made In Belgium - ©Sofie Coreynen

Is there a big difference with the other fashion cities? Absolutely.
Milan doesn’t have all these small stores and that passionate creative underground atmosphere. I also miss something in Paris. Antwerp has the advantage that it’s small and easy to navigate. Creative minds find it easier to meet here. They trigger each other. 

How did Antwerp acquire such a strong international reputation?
In the Eighties Antwerp brought about a huge change in the international fashion world thanks to the Antwerp Six who had no money for big catwalk shows. They held street castings and organised their shows in vacant buildings. The French fashion press was very critical but ultimately it was forced to reconsider. From then on the entire fashion world suddenly focussed on Antwerp. People sensed that something was happening here. 

You have also interviewed several other creative minds who work behind the scenes in fashion?
There are a lot of Belgians who are successful in the international fashion world. Just think of Willy Vandeperre who has photographed campaigns for Jil Sander and works for Vogue. The Stylist Olivier Rizzo often works for Prada in Milan, while you will often see the make-up artist, Inge Grognard and the photographer Ronald Stoops at work during the international fashion weeks. David Vandewal in New York is a stylist for the New York Times’s T Magazine while Peter Philips is the artistic director at Chanel Beauté.

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