ANTWERP, Belgium — Véronique Branquinho, long a favorite of fashion editors and directional retailers such as Colette in Paris, never had any doubt where she would open her first boutique.
Years ago, the 30-year-old Belgian designer set her mind on a five-story building on the central Nationalstraat shopping street here. But there was one problem: it was occupied.
“Even before I had the money to open a shop, I knew that it should be in this building,” said Branquinho over tea. “I’ve been in love with it for years. I loved the style. It’s something timeless and really very me. Luckily, when I was finally ready to open a store, it became available.”
Branquinho began negotiating the purchase of the building, where she also has transferred her design studio, two years ago. It belonged to a jeweler who had used it as his atelier-cum-shop since it was built in 1969.
Opened quietly last month, the 1,300-square-foot space spread over two levels showcases her full men’s, women’s and accessories collections. Branquinho estimated first-year sales for the store at $500,000 (440,00 euros) at current exchange rates.
The store’s white carpets, dark oak fixtures and rattan chairs exude a strong early Seventies vibe. But the shop is also chic and pared down with an elegant aesthetic.
There are two display windows. With typical understatement, Branquinho chose not to show her clothes in the large window on the busy street. Instead, a brooding and romantic black-and-white photograph of a forest is exhibited.
“All of the shops have big display windows with a bunch of bright lights,” said Branquinho. “I think they all look the same. I wanted something more soothing and discreet.”
Clothes do figure in the smaller window on the side street. They are displayed on the dark brown mannequins Branquinho had made specially. A coat from the winter collection costs around $1,465 (1,300 euros), a blazer $845 (750 euros), pants around $790 (700 euros), and a shirtdress around $330 (300 euros).
Branquinho said she has no immediate plans to open other stores.On the ground level, built-in oak armoires line a wall. Another wall is of whitewashed brick. A wood display case cuts along the wall like a large L. ?
The shop’s most eye-catching architectural feature is an open square swath in the ceiling between the first and second floors. Four lamps hang there by 30-foot black cords. A large rattan chair à la “Emmanuelle,” painted black, decorates the fitting room, which has a white vinyl sliding door.
Branquinho said the shop, designed in tandem with Belgian architects B-Architecten, had been altered minimally from its previous look.
“That’s exactly what I liked about it,” she said. “It had style. You can’t re-create that so easily. Most everything was already as it exists today. Of course, we changed the carpet and transformed the armoires from shelving units into hanging displays. We had to build the brick wall for the fitting room. But that’s almost all it took.”
Upstairs, accessed by an elevator or a thin, winding, cut-stone staircase, is the men’s wear and men’s and women’s shoes. It is luminous, with a large window and a wall of opaque glass cubes. The ceiling is paneled in wood.
“This architecture suits me perfectly,” said Branquinho. “It’s clean cut with natural materials like wood and stone. It’s something sensual and very sophisticated.”
Branquinho said she hopes the shop will provide a more intimate window into how customers react to her clothes.
“Business has been good so far,” said Branquinho. “I started my line six years ago. I really wanted to show my own vision of my own world. When you go to stores around the world, customers only see bits and pieces of what I do. Here, I show it in its totality.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast