Area codes: DIFT founders Yves and Bert’s Ghent

Yves Drieghe and Bert Pieters are the driving forces behind DIFT, a Ghent-based creative agency. At their studio in the heart of the city’s Dok Noord district, they create brand identities, events and experiences for clients ranging from design editors to cultural institutions. They’re also the two men behind De Invasie, a platform that promotes and supports upcoming Belgian designers that’ll soon be rolling out its ‘Belgian Village’ concept at the Salone in Milan. For now though, we caught up with the pair to discuss everything from their favourite sneaker store and tattoo parlour to Turkish pides and the city’s original coffee bars.

Our studio is situated in Ghent, but we don’t live there anymore. Looking for space and nature, we moved away a few years ago. Even though we’re at the Dutch border now, we’re still only a 20-minute drive away from our studio. It’s the perfect combination: vibrant city life, but the chance to enjoy some peace and quiet when we want to.

We don’t usually go shopping in Ghent, but we do make a few exceptions. Black Balloon is one of our absolute favourites when it comes to clothing. Almost everything they have seems to match our style. For something on our feet, we visit Dope (74 Onderbergen 9000). The helpful, sweet young lady there always has a nice pair of kicks.

For design and interior stores, Ghent boasts a few golden oldies that everyone should already know, but that really do deserve their fame. Huiszwaluw (51 Onderbergen 9000) and Y.dee (8 Belfortstraat 9000) always have something we’d like. Very soon, we’ll probably make weekly stops at Moor&Moor (7 Jakobijnenstraat 9000).

Locally sourced, natural, and pure ingredients will be the focus at this new grocery store. We’re thrilled to see people who aren’t afraid try something else and go back to the roots of the local grocery store

On another note, but equally splendid, is Body Design (34 Nederkouter 9000). It’s not a place to stop by every week, but when you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, this is really the best parlour in the city.

When it comes to food, one of our favourites is definitely FoodStorms (40 Graaf van Vlaanderenplein 9000). The chef aims for plant-based fine dining, and he does it with bravado. Up until now, he’s hosted a few pop-ups – which were all sold out in a matter of minutes – but soon he’ll open a fixed restaurant, and we’ll make sure we get a table as soon as we can. Another topper is Lokaal (100 Brabantdam 9000), a fairly new restaurant hosted by two great guys. Its location might be a bit off, but at the same time it’s really a plus: having a delicious and nutritious meal in the window at the red light district definitely adds a bit of edge. For us, discovering Lokaal was a revelation: a genuinely interesting place, instead of a semi-hip bar that lacks a true soul. Also slightly edgy but on another level are the many Turkish pizza places around Sleepstraat. The interiors are just wrong, but despite neon lights and paper table cloths, places like this do have something cosy about them. It’s like a cross section of the city: everybody has a piece of pizza once in a while.

It’s always fun to end an evening at Jigger’s (Oudburg 16 9000). Everyone probably mentions this cocktail bar, but it’s just really very good. It kind of reminds us of New York in a way. And ringing a bell before entering is just plain fun. Ghent has become a city of coffee bars, and even though we’ve seen enough hipster bars now, there are a few gems between them. Simon Says (8 Sluizeken 9000) was – together with Or (126A Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat  9000) one of the first specialty bars, and still stands out from the crowd. The interior isn’t sleek Scandi, but has a somewhat more oriental vibe, with dark blue walls adorned with Panamarenko drawings.

Having a studio in the city and a house in the country combines the best of both worlds. A thing that could be improved though, is the lack of interesting spots near our studio. We’re sure Dok Noord will develop soon enough, and we really hope someone who understands the creative companies that work here turns up, creating an environment where having a bite or sharing a few drinks becomes a fun, inspiring activity.