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.

Jan-Jan Van Essche

Jan-Jan Van Essche

Fashion designer and owner, Atelier Solarshop

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’m a fashion designer and, together with my team, I run Atelier Solarshop. We are based in Antwerp North, in the 2060 area, in a vibrant corner near the central station. My usual daily routine is basically waking up, doing some exercises, a quick breakfast and work the rest of the day. We work with a small but super dedicated team of five people and around two to four interns. We are really like family, some of the team members even are my actual family: my sister-in-law, my mother, my boyfriend. The only scene I can even think being part of, is the one at Het Bos. The most fantastic place in Antwerp, where you can always be sure to find interesting things happening, from food to music to exhibitions, or just to hang around.

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?

Antwerp is first and foremost a comfortable city to me because of its familiarity. I’ve grown up here, I know my way around. It also has a practical size and offers most of the things I’d like a city to have. Although I don’t really feel most of the recent developments I’ve seen happening as of late. I’m a bit afraid Antwerp could lose some of its edge, which is a pity because it’s precisely this that gives the city its heartbeat.

What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?

A typical Belgian phenomenon I think: lots of things are left undecided, and others only partially maintained. Which leaves a lot of space for interpretation and creativity. It’s still a quite open place to work from.

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?

I was born and raised in Antwerp, and I have always lived here, so it’s not easy to take a step back and judge how exactly Antwerp has shaped me. But it must have for sure. My fashion viewpoints started from an almost exclusively Antwerp-oriented perspective, seeing as those were the stories I grew up with, the fashion language I was familiar with.

I was born and raised in Antwerp, and I have always lived here, so it’s not easy to take a step back and judge how exactly Antwerp has shaped me. But it must have for sure.

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

I would like to see more openness amongst people, more interest and communication, less prejudice. This counts for the whole world. And more space for creative ideas to manifest themselves, more undefined space. And more green spaces – that’s crucial too.

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?

Then I’d like to take them to Het Bos. I say it again: the best place Antwerp has to offer. If you are in Antwerp on Sunday mornings, you simply have to go to the Otark breakfast club, the best food in town. And visit our shop, Atelier Solarshop.
Photography Joke De Wilde