Sneaker District BEL-Antwerpen
Everyone is falling head over sneakers in Antwerp
TEXT SIMONE NATASHA REYNOLDS PHOTOS THOMAS DE BRUYNE
ANTWERP – Barde + vanVoltt didn’t design the Antwerp Sneaker District store with the traditional sneakerhead in mind. Instead, they thought of the new sneakerhead: Millennials and Gen Z-ers with increasing levels of aesthethic demands and a more luxurious shopping experience, no matter the good.
It’s an understandable investment: sales of designer and leisure sneakers have grown by ten per cent and 33 per cent for both men and women respectively, while handbags (the usual growth driver accessory for the fashion industry) in comparison have only experienced a seven per cent rise in sales in the same period. On the other hand, a mammoth 85 per cent of growth in the luxury goods and experiences market in 2017 is attributed to Millennials and Gen Z-ers.
This explains the antique cabinet on the window display – purchased from a neighbouring antique shop, as the Kloosterstraat is well known for its kind - with the sneakers on show as if it were in a cabinet of curiosities. The deep navy blue velvet that covers the couches in the hangout zones was designed by Raf Simons for Kvadrat, below a neon rendering of lyrics by rapper Nas – ‘The Nikes on my feet keep my cypher complete.’ Infrastructural elements such as tunnels, footpaths and public seating are referenced in the interior, paving the way to Vage Gasten’s monochromatic street-style mural that narrates the history of Amsterdam and Antwerp.
Sneaker district is ‘not like any other ordinary sneaker shop,’ explains Bart-van Seggelen of Barde + vanVoltt. ‘It’s more like an art gallery.’ Millennials may have just put sneakers in the same category as art, but luckily the expected gallery experience is provided at Sneaker District complete with meticulous, detailed finishing of the collection display. The notion of collection and display is not new for die-hard followers of fashion, whatever their obsession. Hip-hop aficionados display collections of ‘deadstock’ (never-been-worn) shoes in exclusive colourways and limited-edition collaborations since the 70s, and those with a keenness for luxury fashion display their collection of handbags and stilettos on the body as an icon of individual style and status. Sneaker District caters to both markets with their exclusive temporary editions and feminine-masculine approach to the display. Although velvet, marble and mirrors may seem excessive for a sneaker store, it actually tells a story of the shifting fashion agenda: sneakers are the new handbags, the new art, the new it.