I grew up in a beautiful, provincial town in Belgium called Destelbergen. Only fifteen minutes outside of Ghent, Destelbergen is best known for its numerous residential castles, thick forests, ponds with swans and its simple, quiet life. We moved to Destelbergen right when my sister Evelien was born, in 1980 and my parents have lived in the same house ever since, albeit a little bit more comfortably and peacefully since their two handfuls flew the nest and settled in New York…
Evelien and I both went to school in the city of Ghent, a grand, medieval town built at the confluence of two rivers in the Flemish region of Belgium. Ghent’s magnificent skyline is proof of its historical affluence and economic importance in Northern Europe. A Cathedral, a Church and the Belfry towers are on view in one line and walking distance of each other. I am very proud of my home town and I get a little offended when tourists tell me they never visited Ghent while they were in Belgium. Somehow people always go to Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp, but skip Ghent, while it is situated right in the middle of the triangle, and to be quite honest, combines all the appealing elements of those three cities. And hello! We have the world famous ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by Van Eyck AND The Gentse Feesten!!
I go home about three times a year, twice when I travel to Europe for the women’s collections and also during the summer holidays. This past October, after Paris Fashion Week I was in Ghent for a week. The weather was still soft and agreeable and I needed some therapeutic bordeom after a month of fashion craziness. And it was about time for a vintage tour of the city where it all began…..
When I was growing up there were only one or two vintage stores in Ghent. My dad especially didn’t allow us to wear second hand clothes. It was kind of frowned and looked down upon. Today, the number of vintage and consignment stores in Ghent has quadrupled and the supply, quality and presentation has become much more creative and involved. Belgium has definitely caught up with the rising vintage trend.
Eighteen-year old Chavelli Inghels had just walked her very first runway show in New York, under an exclusive contract for Calvin Klein. Though still in school – she’s in her junior year, studying Law at the University of Ghent – Chavelli is a rising star and will take another shot at runway this February, when she’ll be doing the endless casting circuit. While we were shopping and dressing up Chavelli told me she doesn’t really go shopping that much. “I think I’m just too lazy,” she admits. “I rarely try vintage clothes because you never know what size it really is and it rarely fits. I’m much more into the accessories and handbags.” But to her surprise she discovered a lot of stores she didn’t know existed before so maybe I have sparked her interest a little bit….
I wonder if the Tourist Office will reward me for making such a devoted case for Ghent….