Belgian fashion designer Walter van Beirendonck's shop in the centre of Antwerp is high on the must-see lists of all hot Antwerp guides, so when we walked past it coincidentally, our friend and I wanted to have a look. And I must say: it's quite a special place. From the outside it looked like a ramshackle, industrial garage, but inside it was filled with fashion and beautiful designer furniture from mainly Dutch designers such as Piet Hein Eek and Maarten Baas.
But though the shop was really beautiful and the salespeople relatively friendly (that is: they ignored us in a more or less sympathetic way) there's something that always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable in shops like Walter's, and I'm trying to figure out what that is. Somehow those large, spacious and close-to-empty shops with their exclusive items and strict salespeople always make me feel unwelcome, and I wonder if that's what they aim for and so are doing it on purpose, or that it's just me being over-sensitive.
I know exclusive, artistic brands are all about image and being part of a selective group of very artistic, interesting and -not unimportant- also well-of people, but sometimes I wonder if those target group people really do feel welcome and at home in shops that look more like a (rather undemocratic) museum. I'm always pretty aware that I don't carry a big bag of money with me and don't look like an avantgardist fashion icon when I enter one of those high-end design/fashion shops. Usually the salespeople either ignore you or start treating you in a rather arrogant and unfriendly way, as though you were a little kid with dirty hands who's about to ruin the whole collection. In some places they almost make you feel like they're doing you a favor if you're allowed to buy one of their exclusive products...
This post isn't meant as some Walter van Beirendonck-bashing, cause like I said there's some very beautiful, creative and interesting stuff to see in the shop, and with the sales prices, some of the items even became within reach... Also I realize that special design and fashion objects may need a different setting than the lots of mass-produced stuff in a cheap bazar. I like creative looking shops and I care for aesthetics, but I also like shops to be inviting, and I hate feeling like I'm inside a shop only on sufferance.
Which makes me curious: do you art & design lovers feel welcome and at ease in high end designer stores?
PS Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside, so I only took these few from outside the shop.
PPS There's this really funny sleeping bear sculpture furniture that Walter van Beirendonck designed shown here
. For euro 30,000 it can be yours!