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 try to step away from everything that puts me in a certain box. As long as I can practice my skills and do my own thing, I feel very creative and free. I’m lucky that most of my clients trust my work and me. This is how creativity works best. I’m based in Antwerp, in the Zuid neighbourhood. I never thought I would buy an apartment so centred but I fell in love with it from the beginning. After six, the busy streets calm down and it’s really relaxing to just have a stroll through the old streets. It became my favorite part of the city. I walk or bike through my favourite street, the Kloosterstraat, every day. I currently share my office with three other self-employed creatives. I love to surround myself with all kinds of people that are fun to hang out with, have passions and are loads of love. I guess I’m one of those designers that knows very little about other designers in the same city. Must be because I’m caught up in a bubble of my own of sorts.
How do you perceive Antwerp? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?
The city feels alive during summer and asleep during winter. When spring starts, you finally see everyone coming out of hibernation. I can’t remember it ever having been different. We love being in our comfortable homes, longing for coziness and warmth during winter. In summer everything happens at the same time; festivals, open bars, openings, parties everywhere, barbecues by the water, just wandering around with friends, enjoying the little sun we have. When it comes to travelling though, I prefer the larger cities. Young and eager for impulses and excitement, I dream of living in one of those metropolises for a little while, just to see how people work and live there.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?
I think the answer to Antwerp’s popularity will always be a mystery. There are a few instigators though, such as our well-known fashion designers and schools. The city and province of Antwerp are both clients of mine and you really feel that they’ve started to invest and believe in young talent. I wouldn’t say that we are the first to come up with new ideas, but you feel the fight of becoming more and more creative, in all kinds of ways. Add to that that the price of rentals are still relatively affordable compared to cities like Paris, London, New York, which gives young designers more time to develop and practice before we actually start working somewhere.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
I would love people to be more open and honest. I feel that most of the people living here are introvert but at the same time full of opinions while I think it’s odd to judge others that easily. It would be great if people could be nicer, not in real life but in general, think nicer about each other. I’m a very sensitive person and negativity easily influences me.
I think the answer to Antwerp’s popularity will always be a mystery.
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp?
I love the weekend. I used to work almost every weekend. Even for a few hours. That was before I decided that it’s healthier to rest once in a while. I love having friends over for dinner or the other way around. I love to dance once in a while and when I don’t, I like to get up early and wander around in the city, or take the car and drive around and discover new places.
If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
De Vlaaikesgang, and, if possible, Sir Anthony Van Dijck the restaurant that lies in the alcove. There’s no better place to show the beauty of our old city.
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?
My local legends of the moment are the Camino Crew. All born and raised in Antwerp. Not only friends but one of the most progressive restaurants when it comes to serving Asian food, street food, buns, rice-bowls and noodle-soups in a very pleasant and cosy atmosphere. I love people with passion and perseverance. I like their idea of wanting to stay small despite their popularity. It’s not usual to find these kinds of quick but very good bites in our city. Whenever I’m there, I feel at home. They attract a mix of the young creative scene and people that appreciate their knowledge in cooking as well as Asian cuisine.louisemertens.com Interview Cleo Klapholz Photography Miles Fischler