Concept store takeover flies the flag for local design


Non-profit organisation Flanders DC won’t stop until every Belgian is a patriot – or at least shops like one

National dress

This autumn, four original Belgian labels will invade concept store Juttu’s pop-up spaces in Antwerp, Bruges and Roeselare. The annual takeover is part of #ikkoopbelgisch (I Buy Belgian), a campaign encouraging consumers to discover local brands and show some national pride.

It’s an initiative by Flanders District of Creativity (DC), an independent non-profit that links the government agency Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship with the creative industries, from design and fashion to architecture and the performing arts.

Previously, Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI) – a daughter organisation of Flanders DC since 2009 – championed the fashion cause, while Design Flanders, part of Flanders DC since 2016, served the needs of the design sector. At the start of 2017, the three organisations officially merged under one name, with various departments.

Nathalie De Schepper, spokesperson for Flanders DC’s fashion department, recalls how the campaign began. “It started as a spontaneous movement at one FFI event several years ago. Badges boasting the Ik Koop Belgisch slogan were handed out to the crowd and people reacted with such enthusiasm that we decided to do something with it.” 

Shop with pride

Today, the eponymous website lists close to 1,000 brands for shoppers to explore, while stores can display a sticker in their windows. Then there’s the hashtag generating social media buzz, and the yearly takeover event at Juttu.

Juttu, a sister company of outdoor equipment store AS Adventure, is named after the Finnish word for anecdote. The chain of concept stores is all about slow fashion with a story. “We’re extremely pleased that Juttu is willing to share its pop-up space with us once a year,” says De Schepper. “For many brands, the collaboration is a unique opportunity to be on display at a big retailer.”

We want to draw attention to a plethora of smaller labels, many of which you probably didn't know were Belgian

- Nathalie De Schepper

The four labels that will be featured this autumn are as diverse as they are Belgian. Jasmien Witvrouwen designs earrings with witty quotes and matching charms, from “Out of my comfort zone” and a dive mask to “No more Tinder” next to a handgun.

Johny be good reinterprets the classic white shirt by means of unexpected embroideries inspired by tattoos and music. Lion of Leisure creates unisex children’s clothing with animal prints and a wild sense of humour. And Design for Pussies can be taken literally. They make eco-friendly design objects for your pet, including collars and toys.

Although Belgian fashion is known and praised across the globe, De Schepper still believes there’s a need for further action.

“When you say Belgian fashion, people immediately think of the Antwerp Six and other big names,” she says. “The average person doesn’t associate themselves with these high-end designers and may not be able to afford their clothes. That’s why we want to draw attention to a plethora of smaller labels, many of which you probably didn't know were Belgian.”

September 14 until November 22, at Juttu stores in Antwerp, Bruges and Roeselare