Farah El Bastani

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.

Farah El Bastani

Farah El Bastani

Stylist

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 work as a freelance fashion stylist for magazines and brands, but I might also style music videos and Flemish celebrities. And of course I give clothing advice to anyone who asks! It’s not always easy to explain to people what styling is exactly, especially if they’re people that view clothing as something purely utilitarian. For me, it’s a means of self-expression that I’ve turned into a profession, allowing me to work in a creative environment that’s fun and inspiring most of the time. I live in Borgerhout, a beautifully diverse part of Antwerp. It’s great to have a daily reminder that multiculturalism is possible, peaceful and incredibly charming. To illustrate my point: next to the Jewish baker on the corner of my street there’s a Moroccan one, and a couple of doors down there’s a Belgian one.

How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Quite small, it’s easy to bump into people here. I have to say I quite like that. Moreover, I feel like there’s always a lot to do in Antwerp compared to other Belgian cities. There’s a lively party scene as well as a whole bunch of initiatives instigated by the city itself – who’s obviously really occupied with its image and its people. It’s a good place for entrepreneurs.

I live in Borgerhout, a beautifully diverse part of Antwerp. It’s great to have a daily reminder that multiculturalism is possible, peaceful and incredibly charming.

What would you say gives the city its edge?

For me personally, Antwerp is an easier alternative to Brussels which often seems too big and divided for young creatives, and can even be frightening at times. And everyone will have to face the language barrier at one point or another. Besides the fact that Antwerp is a multicultural city, it is also a very young one. Students are simply everywhere thanks to the many schools and universities. Many of them stick around too, once they’ve gotten a taste of the city. You can easily find a favourite hang out spot in every neighbourhood. And most importantly, Antwerp’s citizens aren’t afraid to express themselves, and they dress exactly the way they want.

How would you say has Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today?

I guess it’s the city where it all started, when my sister and I used to come here with the bus to spend all our money shopping, when I had my first date, my first party. Frankly, I could go on for hours talking about the firsts I experienced in Antwerp. You can’t get lost here and it’s easy to make useful professional connections. Soon you’ll figure out that all the people you know, know you too. A village feeling, of sorts, which I believe is perceived as annoying by some, but I really enjoy it. It definitely helped me out at the start of my career.

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

I miss places where you can enjoy a drink and get something to eat on the side. Not like Spanish tapas, but more like the Italian aperitivo where you have a buffet with small dishes you can take for free. In Antwerp you always have to pay for your food and finger food is sometimes really expensive.

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?

Get up late on Saturday, call my friends and invite them to brunch or, if they’re too hungover, lunch. Later on, it’s pretty pleasant to just have a stroll around the city, while avoiding the centre. Kloosterstraat is a safe bet to find a great piece of art. In the evening, go for drinks in Barbossa and go dancing in Izzy Maze. And the MAS museum and its rooftop are essential. Good restaurants are nearby and you are within walking distance of the historic center.

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Interview Helen Van De Poel
Photography Joke De Wilde