Antwerp is Europe's second-largest port and has much of the zest often associated with a harbor town. But it also has an outsized influence in a very different realm: that of clothing design. Since the 1980s, Antwerp-trained fashion designers have become renowned for experimental styles paired with time-honored workmanship. Several designers, such as Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, stay
firmly rooted in the city; others have filtered into major European couture houses. On their home turf, you can experience the fascinating mix of tradition and innovation that influences their work.
In its heyday, Antwerp (Antwerpen in Flemish, Anvers in French) played second fiddle only to Paris. Thanks to artists such as Rubens, Van Dyck, and Jordaens, it was one of Europe's leading art centers. Its printing presses produced missals for the farthest reaches of the Spanish empire. It became, and has remained, the diamond capital of the world. Its civic pride was such that the Antwerpen Sinjoren (patricians) considered themselves a cut above just about everybody else. They still do.