Can you describe what you do?
I am a fashion designer, living between Antwerp and my hometown of Bangkok, Thailand. I’ve been in Antwerp for four and a half years now since I came to study fashion at the Royal Academy, currently living in an apartment in the city centre. It’s my little sanctuary of a studio-cum-home where I spend most of my days, working on my projects. I have a little terrace that has a view over the Oudaan police station and it’s the perfect place for my morning coffee or late afternoon drinks with friends, especially in the summer when the sun is out and the days are long. The people I am closest to and hang out with in Antwerp are friends that I know from the Academy. That is what’s special about the Academy: it’s a very tight-knitted community that causes you to form special bonds – personally as well as professionally. My best friend Raphaële Lenseigne and I just started a shoe brand of our own, Adult., which we work on together with our friend and photographer Lee Wei Swee.
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?
There is a real duality in Antwerp. A mix of the old and new, a small city that became an international hub and made its name for its art and design scene. There is something quite plain and mundane about Antwerp, but from this spawns a crowd of really interesting characters, doing very unique things.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives and gives the city its edge?
I think Antwerp is a breeding ground for independent and creative minds. The community is relatively small, which nurtures a sense of camaraderie and interdisciplinary opportunities. I think this is especially the case with the Academy and the people who I studied with. Everyone who comes out of school has developed a strong artistic identity – creatively and technically. Increasingly, we grow further away from wanting to enter a mainstream system and find new ways of expression.
There is something quite plain and mundane about Antwerp, but from this spawns a crowd of really interesting characters, doing very unique things.
How would you say Antwerp has contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
It was the Academy that especially contributed to who I am as a designer today. I got to dive into this field that I am passionate about, learn the skills, and develop my own personal language and creative process. I think this is also due to the fact that Antwerp is not a major urban city – the pace here is much slower – and that I wasn’t nurtured as a designer in an industry capital, like Paris or London, has allowed me to realise that I don’t necessarily have to be pulled into the frenzy of this business; that it is possible to continue working on what I love to do and gradually build up my own creative universe.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
I come from Bangkok, which is pretty much an around-the-clock kind of city. I sometimes miss that in Antwerp!
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?
Antwerp is the perfect city to take a stroll. You can just wander around all the small streets and there’s always something new to discover. In the weekends, I usually like going down Kloosterstraat and check out the antique stores there. The city also has several great restaurants: Hungry Henrietta, Invincible, Graanmarkt 13 (plus their boutique upstairs) and Le John, for example. I was so happy that Camino reopened again since it was a favourite spot when I was in school and their food is really spot-on, especially when I’m craving some Asian food. When the weather is nice, sitting on the outdoor terraces of cafes like Witzli Poetzli or Vitrine for coffee or drinks with great company is a perfect way to unwind. Now that I’ve finished with the intense school schedule, I like to go out and discover new things about Antwerp everyday.
A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?
The Fashion department of the Royal Academy is to me a true legend of the city. They came up with a system of teaching that worked and stuck with it until this day, producing year in year out, some of the greatest designers out there. The program is intense – there are great times and bad times – and we all knew it, but students still flock there every year with a desire to be a part of this offbeat community.shonepuipia.com adult-antwerp.com Photography Joke De Wilde