Susie might have beaten me to the punch on this and pick pocketed my memory card for a couple of shots to rub salt in to my wounded features but this concept store is too good not to mention here. RA13 will officially open next week but we were given a sneak preview of the huge space (800 sq metres) which is already crammed full of wonder and intrigue even thought most of it was still packed in boxes. When we arrived at the store we were greeted with a dust and sawdust plume as the builders were still frantically working (even on a Sunday) on creating a truly magical space complete with a thatched cottage buying area, reclaimed cinema seating for a music area and an outdoor forest to name but a few features.
It is when we entered the fashion space that we quickly realised how exciting this store was. Not just for the city of Antwerp but for anyone close enough to hop on to a Eurostar to make the trip. Dan The Scout walked us through the huge space and talked us through the array of design talent which left both of us motionless, tongues out, salivating like two hungry stray dogs who had just wandered in to the finest butchers in town. The full lineup is mind blowing and in truth I am too lazy to type them up so I will just give you a few of the names which are currently creating quite the stir my loins; Gareth Pugh, Damir Doma, Juun J, Frank Leder, Ute Ploier, Material Boy, Makin Jan Ma, Peter Jensen and Katie Eary. I was able to nose through the well stocked Frank Leder rail and it was the first time that I had seen his designs up close and I was particularly taken with the outerwear and accessories.
The designs reminded me of the designer. In all honesty, he is a deisnger I'm not too familiar with as I've never been able to buy his design. For this season, Frank Leder continues to weave the story of the ordinary man into the fabric of his own label and this time focusses on the Bavarian poacher. The collection incorporates authentic elements from the inspiration and Dan pointed each feature out to me as we . For example, the designer crafted horn closures from deer antlers (which I'm assured are naturally shed each winter) and shirts were made from antique sheets from the 1960’s. It was great to be able to feel (and possibly buy) designs which previously I had only ever seen online.
In addition to the bounty of design talent hanging on the rails throughout the three hundred square metre fashion space, the store is going to be home to a music area, a bookstore, exhibition area, food area as well as a designer vintage section. Ra promises to be a melting pot for fashion, art, design, music, books and even fine fine food. A quick shopping visit here will no doubt turn in to a long stay as each one of my senses is treated. The experience will start in the Kloosterstraat 13 in the heart of Antwerp giving one persuasive reason for my swift return but then the team wish to extend the experience throughout the virtual world of soon to be relaunched http://www.ra13.be/. I have previously mentioned that my ultimate dream is to one day open my own menswear store and I even have blueprints bouncing around in my brain. Well, it seems that two recent Royal Academy of Antwerp graduates, Romain Brau and Anna Kushnerova, who came together at a party and dreamed up this project have infiltrated my inner thoughts and are about to unleash a store which is a doppelganger to that of dreams (albeit on a much larger scale). I just cannot wait to shop here...