An Insider’s Guide to Antwerp

Annelies Timmermans

Annelies Timmermans. Photo by Paulien de Graaff.

“Designing bags is about more than aesthetics – quality and function are essential,” says the flourishing young Antwerp designer, Annelies Timmermans, “The challenge is to find the perfect balance between these things.” Already well known in Belgium for her everyday bags, the six-foot-tall, flaxen-haired designer combines Northern European utility with Italian luxury craftsmanship and materials. With a new shop in an Art Nouveau-style storefront on the Ijzerenwaag strip, Timmermans has established herself in the fashion and design scene of Antwerp. Here, she shares some of her favorite things about the city.

Favorite neighborhood: Ijzerenwaag, where my shop is – it’s a pedestrian street, and there are really nice shops here like Hay and Malene Birger. It’s next to a great area for wandering around that people in Antwerp call the Wild Sea. Ijzerenwaag connects Kammenstraat, a cool street now taken over by big fashion stores, and the Nationalestraat, a really chic street where Dries Van Noten and Ann __Demeulemeester__have their shops near the Mode Museum. The museum is great – the exhibits show so much more than just clothes; they tell the whole story and inspiration. Inside the museum, Copyright Bookstore has the best selection of art books.

Favorite shops: You can find every kind of present imaginable at Moose in the City, a Scandinavian design shop just across from my store, and at The Recollection, they sell everything from furniture to flowers, and a lot of beautiful, natural objects. Ingrid Verhoeven has a small, artistic wunderkammer of a jewelry shop and Garde-Robe Nationale sells a nice mix of Belgian and Scandinavian clothes, shoes, and accessories.

Favorite restaurants: Close to my shop, the Local Store has a nice, sunny terrace and local products from Antwerp – it’s good for lunch or a coffee. At night, Bar Chine serves small plates of contemporary Chinese cuisine, and it’s very easy-going. Staff's Kantine, a small, cozy restaurant south of my shop, has delicious food and excellent wine, and the interior is really warm with lots of vintage pieces. For an aperitivo drink or late night after going out, everyone ends up at Vitrin. You always see familiar faces and a lot of fashion people go there.

Why living Antwerp is so great: There are a lot of young people doing creative things. New collectives are organizing markets with produce from local farmers, and they invite chefs to use the leftovers from the market for tastings in the evening. There’s an old customs house where groups like STULP and Bagger organize art projects, coffee bars, and parties. On weekends, there’s the __Vreemdelingenmarkt__for buying food and flowers, and the __Vogeltjesmarkt__where you used to buy birds and animals but now it’s mostly for clothes and antiques. There’s also a citywide festival every year called Summer of Antwerp. They open two summer bars and have concerts, circuses, and theater by the river, and sometimes you find giant puppet-style figures walking around town. Every day there’s something else to do all over the city. They open a hotel inside an old office building where everyone rents a cot in one big room and it’s like summer camp for grown-ups.