The Antwerp Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

To mark the release of our Warriors edition, we've teamed up with This is Antwerp to bring you 100 Antwerp Warriors, a 100-strong selection of local movers and shakers setting the tone for the neighbourhood of tomorrow. From design and architecture to contemporary art and politics, these are the creatives shaping the narrative of the future.

Erna Vandekerckhove

Erna Vandekerckhove

Owner, Labels INC.

Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to.

I’ve been running my shop, Labels INC, for 15 years now, starting out in 2002. The store is located in the Sint-Andries neighbourhood, in the heart of Antwerp. We sell recent designer clothing from Belgian designers such as The Antwerp Six, Martin Margiela and Raf Simons, but also stock pieces by Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and the likes. The people I work with are those I spend my life with – the creatives in the city. And, given my profession, I mostly feel drawn to Antwerp’s fashion scene.

How do you perceive Antwerp?  What gives the city its edge?

The city offers a rather cheap living situation, enabling them to create. Other than that, the city has a very special atmosphere. Next to Europe’s biggest harbour and the Scheldt River, it all has a melancholic feel to it. Something rough but honest, almost harsh. Antwerp couldn’t be compared to other cities. Cities of the same size are rather reclusive, but our harbour, the fashion and the diamonds turned Antwerp into an international hub. In the fashion department alone students of more than 30 nationalities fill the classrooms. It’s a cultural hotpot.

How would you say Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

Knowing all of The Antwerp Six and other influencial creatives like Patrick Robijn, Linda Loppa, Martin Margiela and Raf Simons inspired me. Going out with them and just spending time together in Antwerp made me want to do and undertake things myself, I wanted to make things move. They all had a huge influence on me, and made my shop into what it is now: showcasing and selling the art Antwerp brought forth.

In the fashion department alone students of more than 30 nationalities fill the classrooms. It’s a cultural hotpot.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?

More breeding ground for young designers and artists to create their vision. By that I mean MORE help to find studio spaces and financial support from the government.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of- towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

First, I’d take them to the Theaterplein for a Moroccan pancake on the weekly market. Then we’d go shopping at Dries in the Modepaleis, pass by Ann Demeulemeester, Cocodrillo, The Recollection and, of course, Labels INC ;). Evenings are great for drinks at Vitrine on the Marnixplaats, and a homemade Belgian dinner at Ciro’s.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?

Something more sentimental: I walked in one of Martin Margiela’s first Paris shows. The more delicate stories I’ll keep to myself.
Photography Joke De Wilde