Christian Wijnants Flagship Store Opening
If you have been around in Antwerp for a while, chances are good you have noticed why it’s called a fashion capital. We all know there is nothing that Kanye loves more than Kanye, but when he wears Antwerp close to his heart (literally) I think it’s safe to assume this city has quiet the impressive fashion reputation. This week, Antwerp’s fashion story got a new chapter. Christian Wijnants opened his flagship store at Steenhouwersvest and I got to be there (shout out to my girl Karma).
Pumpkin spiced season
Crispy mornings, grey skies, regular lattés instead of iced ones, …that’s right my friends, fall is coming (I’m stating this just in case you don’t own a calendar). Prepare for layers of clothes, pumpkin-spiced everything and angry aliens with skin so pale it’s almost see-through. Or maybe that’s just me. But when a guy like Christian Wijnants decides to open up a store in the centre of the city, you’re kinda looking forward to those gazillion layers of clothes
After enjoying my morning coffee at Caffenation I found my way to Steenhouwersvest, a charming cobbled street just around the corner of the fashion museum MoMu and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Several designer brands like Diane von Frustenberg and the Belgian jewelry designer duo Wouters & Hendrix are located at Steenhouwervest. So it doesn’t seem bizarre Christian Wijnants opened his flagship store in the same neighbourhood.
Arriving at the store I found a bunch of warm smiles and handshakes welcoming me inside. All of a sudden I forgot all about the weather limbo that was going on outside.
Andreas Bozarth Fornell
The dominating concept, natural versus artificial, is to be found in Christian’s collection as well as in the design of the store itself. Andreas Bozarth Fornell, the architect, managed to blend a sense of nature into the industrial nature of a city and create a certain romance about it. Everywhere in the store there was an alternation of robust hard materials and more natural ones. Andreas inspired his design mainly on Christian’s collection, but also made the authentic space speak for itself. The beautiful robust concrete ceiling is a perfect example of that. It was already there but just needed a few improvements Andreas told me.
A very specific line throughout Andreas’s work is that he likes to give customers the feeling they can’t see the whole store at once. People have to “discover” the store layer after layer. It was very clear that Andreas doesn’t compromise when it comes to layers. Fun fact, Andreas also designed the ACNE Studios store that’s only a couple blocks away from Steenhouwersvest.
Another thing that stood out in the store was the little garden at the back, a natural element but yet again clashing with artificial elements. When you look closely at the garden (I only saw it after the third time or so) you can see there is a mirrored screen at the back of the garden that creates a spacious depth. Also, the plants in the garden were specifically chosen to resist the Belgian weather, meaning they stayed green throughout all the seasons.
When I asked him what kind of experience he wanted to give people when walking into the store, I immediately understood his reply. Andreas wants to give a bit of the DNA of the brand away to the people visiting the store. Walking into the space, people will have a full experience of the brand Christian Wijnants.
Although Andreas hasn’t been to Antwerp that often, he finds the city having a good narrative. His hometown Stockholm might be slightly bigger, but he likes the vibes of this city. His favourite place to wonder off in the city is the Scheldekaaien.
As my eyes vigorously took in the prints and fabrics, Christian came over to introduce himself (not that he needed an introduction) to my friend and me. Christian had a very pleasant way of conversing and an utmost charming smile that went perfectly with that.
When I asked Christian why he opened up his flagship store in Antwerp, his answer was quiet simple: logic. Christian studied here at the fashion academy, he has lived here for quiet some years and Antwerp has just that little inexplicable extra. So it wasn’t really a decision as much as logical reasoning.
The models and staff at the store were wearing pieces of Christian’s current collection. Suddenly I felt a peculiar kinship with that unassuming female in a New York diner hearing Meg Ryan’s Sally warmly gasping yes. All I could think was: “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Inspired on a photography series about farming in Central Africa by Jackie Nickerson, Christian managed to find the perfect balance between natural materials like wool and more artificial fabrics like the fake leather. The silhouettes and prints are clearly not just designed fashion but carefully manufactured style with a clear story to tell: the story of a modern woman. So girls, if you want what she’s having there is a fairly simple answer:
Christian Wijnants Flagship Store, Steenhouwersvest 36.
Christian Wijnants Flagship Store
Text by Ikram Annouri
Pics by Ikram annouri