Belgian fashion is having a moment – MoMu, Antwerp’s fashion museum, has finally reopened after a hiatus of three years. Having played a central role in shaping the city’s status as a world renowned fashion hub, Belgian garments from the infamous Antwerp Six are on show (the group includes Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene and Dirk Bikkembergs, who all graduated from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980–81). Today, Ann Demeulemeester is embracing her Belgian roots with the reopening of her flagship store in Antwerp’s stylish Zuid neighbourhood following an extensive renovation.
Claudio Antonioli acquired the Ann Demeulemeester company last year with the desire to take the label back to its cult status. The newly designed flagship, therefore, is a step in the right direction. First opened in 1999, the store is housed in an historical 1880s Beaux Arts building that was originally built as a school for seamen. Now, Demeulemeester's husband and partner Patrick Robyn has redesigned the 520-square-meter flagship from start to finish, updating it for a new era. 'The question that we wanted to answer was, what do we expect from a shop today, when fashion is everywhere and everything can be bought online,' said Robyn.
In a bid to cultivate an atmosphere of serenity, Robyn created a daytime lighting setup of chiaroscuro, framing the dark silhouettes, textures, and details of Demeulemeester's largely monochromatic clothes. The French doors of the fitting rooms open into a Victorian fern courtyard, an oasis of calm and privacy. 'Shopping is a very intimate, even vulnerable moment, and we wanted to make our store as welcoming as possible,' said Robyn.
Following a prolonged period of online shopping as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ann Demeulemeester brand understands the sentimental importance of IRL shopping. 'I hope that when our customers get home after buying something in this shop, their clothes will remain loaded with memories, emotion, and meaning,' said Robyn.