Mathilde Giard - 2013-02-09
For creativity in Belgium’s fashion sector, Anvers immediately springs to mind. But Brussels, bolstered by young designers who studied at its La Cambre fashion school, has also begun to make a name for itself. Here are the boutiques and brands that define Brussels fashion from Rue Antoine-Dansaert to Avenue Louise.
Hunched over her sewing machine, Vanessa Vukicevic is giving her Peter Pan collars a touch of humour: red foxes designed on a white background in homage to the furs that were once such desirable neckwear. The creatures have taken over the shop windows of her boutique, Ménage à Deux, Rue de Flandre.
This trendsetting designer learnt her trade at the La Cambre school. Founded in 1986, the institute’s fashion design department has become one of the most highly regarded in Europe. La Cambre has made it possible for Brussels to gain ground on Anvers and its Académie des Beaux-Arts where the Belgian avant-garde – Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela – stitched their first hems back in the 1980s.
The designers of Rue Antoine-Dansaert
For the past 27 years, Sonja Noël has been running Stijl (n° 74), a vast, luminous space where the very latest creations for men and women are always showcased. ‘As soon as graduates of Anvers or La Cambre begin to sell their collections, they contact me,’ explains Noël, a woman with short blond hair who is wearing a bold blue and black dress. In its annex devoted to children’s clothing, Kat en Muis (’cat and mouse’, n° 32), the asymmetric shelves would likely find fans amongst the Belgian surrealists. At n° 64, Annemie Verbeke, another pioneer, restructures garments along solemn, sophisticated lines. Antoine-Dansaert’s inventive spirit has spread into adjoining streets such as the above-mentioned Rue de Flandre and Rue Léon-Lepage. The Hunting and Collection concept store at n° 17 Rue des Chartreux is not to be missed.
Vintage in the Marolles quarter
When trying to find the rare vintage pearl, one can choose between the flea market on Place du Jeu de Balle (early risers only) and the second-hand shops nearby. Idiz Bogam (180-182 Rue Haute) offers a retro selection of furniture and clothing. ‘After 17 years on Rue Dansaert, I was ready to move on,’ says Jacqueline Ezman, who has participated in giving the street a new éclat by opening her shop here. Next stop: the treasure-trove of Bernard Gavilan (146 rue Blaes) which overflows with eccentric items that mirror this daffy DJ’s persona.
Star headwear at the Grand-Sablon
It seems that Madonna came to Brussels specially to buy a cheetah cowboy hat from Elvis! On Rue Lebeau (n° 67), the mad toppings by mad hatter Elvis Pompilio make the head turn. His star creation is the pliable and transformable Diabolo as worn by French author Amélie Nothomb.
Bobo trend on Place Brugmann
A former student of La Cambre, Sandrina Fasoli is one of Brussels’s rising stars. Her designer clothing can be found on Place Brugmann, next to Wouters & Hendrix jewellers. The neighbouring Le Châtelain quarter is the next shopping stop.
Avenue Louise chic
Located in the upper city, this venerable thoroughfare is named for King Léopold II’s eldest daughter, Princess Louise-Marie. The great labels of ready-to-wear apparel can be found hanging from the racks of Francis Ferent’s shop which covers 750 m2 at n° 43. On Place Stéphanie (Louise’s sister), Bellerose is a posh Belgian label. And at n° 158, Edouard Vermeulen, house of Natan, clothes Princess Mathilde of Belgium!
* Getting there. From London’s Victoria Coach Station to Brussels via coach (9 hours) starts at £ 9 return on Eurolines: www.eurolines.co.uk/destinations/belgium
Eurostar runs £ 69 return from London St. Pancras, but the direct journey only takes 2 hours and special fares may be available: www.eurostar.com
* Side trip: The Musée du Costume et de la Dentelle (Costume and Lace museum) at 12, Rue de la Violette is just a few steps from the Grand-Place. Displayed are clothing and accessories from another era: perpetually new beginnings that remain a source of inspiration for today’s top designers. www.museeducostumeetdeladentelle.be/fr/accueil/