Beyond Paris And Milan
Shoppers are finding cutting-edge designers working in some unexpected places.
By Ginanne Brownell
July 2-9, 2007 issue – Tim Van Steenbergen’s atelier lies hidden down a nondescript street in Antwerp traversed by trolley cars and old ladies with shopping carts. The design studio, housed in an old sewing factory, has faux wooden walls and plastic chairs but also hints of glamour: tacked up on the office walls are several photos of Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas, the inspiration for the Hollywood-dame-meets-Hellenic-diva 2008 collection he is currently working on. Van Steenbergen knows Antwerp is not exactly a fashion capital of the world, but he still wouldn’t trade the modest skyline out his window. "When I was living in Paris I realized how good it was here," says Van Steenbergen, 29. "Antwerp is very multicultural. [At the same time], because it is so small it pushes you to travel and be influenced by everything."
The world of fashion has always spun around Paris, New York, London and Milan, home to the important Fashion Weeks and shoppers seeking cutting-edge couture. And while the fashion capitals retain their importance to the industry, a clutch of second-tier shopping cities are now challenging their supremacy. Chief among them: Antwerp, Chicago, Istanbul and Shanghai. Groundbreaking designers like Van Steenbergen, Istanbul’s Bahar Korcan, Shanghai’s Lu Kun and Chicago’s Lara Miller are purposely basing themselves in these cities, encouraged by the rise of exclusive homegrown boutiques that peddle not just clothing but chic personal accessories and home furnishings as well.