Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shopping in Gent: Twiggy - new and improved

Twiggy used to be a beacon of style in what probably qualifies as the most hideous shopping-street in Gent: Langemunt. Not that it’s ugly – it’s actually quite pretty. It’s the connection between two very pretty squares (Groentemarkt and Vrijdagsmarkt), and it’s not dirty in the least. But it has zero personality. There’s no cool stores, just chains and a Swarovski shop. Bad pop musics blasts out of a sound system throughout the street. It’s a touchstone of banality. You only go there for cheap underwear or belly dancing-costumes in the hidden sex shop.

(I was looking for a picture of Red Hot, the shop I'm talking about, but unfortunately the only thing I found were pictures of Anthony Kiedis and a few dodgy images.)

Thank god for Twiggy, though. It functioned as a kind of lighthouse in these ordinary surroundings – a light, minimalist interior with lots of quirky corners and a beautiful collection of clothes. Nothing daring or edgy, let alone radically new, but always classy. They closed up about a year ago, announcing that they would relocate to a different building, bigger and better. When I was walking around in Gent a few weeks ago I almost accidentally bumped into the new and improved Twiggy, but I didn't have time to enter. So last saturday, embarking on a quest to find the perfect tartan blouse, I picked the Notarisstraat 3 as my starting point.

Can I tell you how much I love the new Twiggy? The owners secured a beautiful grand 19th century townhouse that I'd never really noticed before. It's located at one of the most pretty places in Gent (granted, Gent has a lot of those). It's just off the Vlaanderenstraat, a street conveniently hosting some great stores and a bakery with divine éclairs cafés. Needless to say I had to buy one to make sure my sugar dosage was up for the exploration. I anticipated it would take a me a while to browse through the building, and I was right. You definitely need to take a certain amount of time for walking around Twiggy, not in the least because it's got three levels. The basement - pretty cool, they just took out a whole floor and there's still a fireplace hanging in mid-air - is dedicated to men's clothes. (The selection looked nice, even though the boyfriend wasn't convinced.) The ground floor has the cash register and a few rooms that are beautifully laid out with mirrors, accessories, carefully composed racks.

The list of brands is quite exhaustive. Fans of Acne, Isabel Marant, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith will definitely find something to their liking. There’s a lot of Belgians in there too: A.F. Vandevorst, Rue Blanche, Véronique Leroy, Just in Case, Le Fabuleux Marcel de Bruxelles, ... This all translates into a LOT of clothes, but the effect is never overbearing. You can just browse at ease, marvelling at the surroundings. When I first visited, the interior was still kind of rough - some walls weren't painted, and I wondered whether is was intentional or not. After all, I also saw some loose electric wires dangling from a ceiling upstairs. The wires are gone now, but the walls are still rugged. It looks pretty cool.

The second floor is more or less the same, but it's a bit larger than the first. Overall it's a very nice effect. Like walking in the house of a rich lady who decided to sell all her garments because she was tired of her life, so she just kept a safari-style hat and travelled off to Africa. Like an old version of Sofia Coppola. If there’s one thing you have to admit about Sofia, it’s that she’s got class, so that’s without a doubt a good thing. The only think I didn't like were the improvised dressing rooms. I don't think they even qualify as dressing rooms - they're just curtains in corners, with lots of gaps for people to stare through while you're in your underwear, struggling to fit into a complicated dress in a way too confined space. And of course it's laundry day, so your panties will be a bit colourless and saggy, with a sexy hint of butt-crack showing. Just kidding. That never happens to me. Hm. Anyway, that problem's solved, this is what the dressing rooms look like now:

Should you decide to check it out, you might just bump into me, because I plan to be a loyal customer. If you happen to catch a glimpse of a crazy lady with washed out underwear, it won’t be me though, because I’ll come prepared!


  1. Thank you for this suggestion! I perfectly understand what you said about Langemunt and I'm really curious about this boutique...I should plan a trip to Gent...

    BTW, I really like PrivateJoke, also because it's one of the few shops that it's open on Sunday, a big plus for Brux standards...

  2. Yes, it's sad how boring the whole of Belgium is on a sunday. I hope some other branches will catch on.

    And I'm going to highlight a few more stores from Gent very soon, so keep checking in! :)

  3. De belangrijkste vraag edoch: hebben ze ook een maternity afdeling?!