Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Belgian shopping

This wasn't quite the angle with which I expected to approach my stay in Belgium, but an interesting point on Make Do & Mend set me in mind of it.

It was a four-day trip and I stayed in Ghent, making day trips to Antwerp and Bruges. It became something of a shopping frenzy, as the soon-to-come photos will attest to.

I was really struck by the superb layout of their stores, particularly the smaller boutiquey ones. As Kate of MD&F rightly observes, many British stores really self-sabotage by cramming in so much stock that you can't see the wares for the trees, so to speak. One thing I like about Belgium is its pace, and this seemed to translate to their shopping - there's none of the frantic rail-to-rail nonsense that makes shopping an ordeal. In many of the stores I went into this week, boutique or chain, there was floorspace a-plenty, and goods wisely and pleasingly displayed with enough surrounding room to let them breathe and entice people. Some honourable mentions:

- Eva Bos, Ghent

Eva is apparently a teacher at Ghent's fashion academy and this is her own personal fashion display case. There's a mirrored golden pole outside the front door, and the interior is equally yummy. McQueen shoes, a small display of jewellery from the reasonable [45 euros] to the very expensive [800 euros], and perfect dresses [vintage couture and new designs] in black, red and powder pink, all in a low-lit jewelbox of a space.

- Iki, Bruges
My favourite second-hand shop in the world. Another ancient tiled floor, and the minimum of merchandise - one rail of clothes, a low wall shelf of bags and shoes, a cabinet of 30s and 40s jewellery, and occasional other pretties dotted here and there. Everything's shockingly inexpensive [10 euros for a sweet black suede 40s purse? 5 euros for a fetching short navy paisley men's scarf? Gosh...] and very well chosen - not one dud in the place. First time round, I bought out nearly the whole shop. Sadly it was closed on my return visit, but re-opens on August 14th.

- Bruphils, Bruges

An average-looking, well-laid out chain for elegant workwear at first sight, with a fairly pricy main collection and a younger concession range, until you notice the expertly cut sailor-waisted trousers and the oh-so-shiiiiiny patent boots, and the little garden out the back. Also, I enjoyed the awfully heavy, lime-green felt curtains on the changing rooms - a wee spot of well-placed childishness in an otherwise very grown-up store.

- Au Bon Marche, Ghent
A screamingly delectable little place with an antique tiled floor... a glass cabinet housing pretty snap-close purses and wallets made of such soft-looking leather, nothing less than 'succulent' describes it... eye-wateringly pricey, delicate handmade jewellery and funny little stationery and curiosities. Everything is far too expensive [triple-figures for the tiny diamante bracelets], but it's all so pretty and so well-displayed, one can't leave without spending at least 50 euros anyway.

- Episode, Antwerp

[Image: FashionFillers]

Pretty well known across blogland. Londoners know the Chalk Farm Road branch, with its orange shop front and somewhat unremarkable Camden-y 'vintage' stock. Antwerpers have it so much better. Imagine Mint of Covent Garden, but much large, better organised and with dramatically slashed prices, and a really nice, airy space lit by skylights and left to breathe. Again, ample space between the carefully ordered rails - relief! Some second-hand places are an explosion of headachey colour; this one's a rainbow. An hour and a half later I was still trying things on, to the probable chagrin of the staff who were too polite to request I leave so they could go home. I redeemed myself at the till with my debit card.

I can't wait to go back to Belgium and explore more. I can see myself moving there one of these days.


Make Do and Mend said...

How fab to know - I've been meaning to give Belgium a whirl for ages - this is great shopping information.

Charponnaise said...

I'm going back at the first opportunity for another recce.

One of these days, it's likely I'll move there.

enc said...

I'd love to have a chance to shop in Belgium. I really miss Europe.

Fashionistadiary said...

sounds like belgium is a bit of a treasure chest! great, thanks so much for all the shopping tips! will have to check them out xo

Dressed and Pressed said...

I love Belgium. I've only been there once but it holds fun memories for me. I'm going to keep this post so I'll know where to go next time I'm there.