It’s January 2020 and what better way to start the new year and the new decade than a trip to Antwerp; famous for being the diamond capital of the world.
So why Antwerp? Well, we received an exclusive invite to a new clothing store opening in the centre of Antwerp which is fast becoming a hotspot for fashion in Europe, and they’re stocking our gear!
After opening their first store in Brooklyn, New York in 2018, The Canvas by Querencia chose Antwerp as their next sustainable marketplace, and Otso were invited. Get in!
The Canvas offers a unique retail experience based on the 17 Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Otso was invited amongst 50 other brands to join them in their new store opening in Antwerp.
The Canvas boasts a coffee bar and lounge area, with a yoga studio (planned) together with local artists’ works on show, similar to our own setup here in Slaithwaite, Yorkshire! We've actually got a yoga studio with a bar and restaurant, together with a community arts group and more artisan local made stuff than you can throw a handmade walking stick at, right on our doorstep!
OK, so back to Antwerp. We're invited. Our sustainable tees are already there and we're on our way. After a short flight from Manchester to Brussels, followed by a train to Antwerp, we settled into our city centre AirBnb just a stone's-throw from The Canvas.
Meir Lodge, Lange Klarenstraat 14, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Before the opening night at The Canvas, we thought it rude not to wander around the streets of Antwerp checking out a local bars to sample some of Belgian’s finest beers!
Antwerp also prides itself as the street art city of Belgium and we managed to stumble on a few graffiti pieces on our ramble. It’s worth checking out this site which shows locations of all the cool street art pieces in Antwerp.
After a few Trappist beers, we arrive at the opening event at The Canvas, and we’re welcomed by one of the founders Devin Gilmartin, who showed us around the fantastic renovation of the building where everything centres around a magnificent spiralling wooden staircase.
Each floor of the building features different brands and artists from around the world including some exciting developments from a small start-up with a scanner for your feet which creates custom 3D printed trainers, and the now famous Otso clothing sitting proud on floor 2.
We spoke to Devin about ethical fashion and his new Antwerp store and here’s what he had to say:
Otso - You already run a store in Brooklyn, NYC… What brought you to Antwerp to set up an eco store here?
Devin - “The primary mission of The Canvas is to support and fuel the growth of the brands who are using fashion as a channel to make a difference in the world. The Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, are a framework for the change we need to see across government and industries with major cultural, economic, and environmental footprints. Global challenges require global solutions, so it was natural for us to begin considering international expansion.
The Antwerp opportunity came about through conversations with our now Director of Operations, Steff Vermeesch, our cultural affairs partner KUNSTGEZIND, and MADE, who we call the coolest landlord ever. We focus on occupying vacant spaces, and Antwerp has plenty of them. The stars were aligned through these unique partnerships, making Antwerp the ideal first stop for us in Europe.”
Otso - What was it about Otso Clothing that you liked that led you to invite us to stock our clothing in your latest store?
Devin - “T-shirts are a modern form of communication. Otso's focus on ethical production and manufacturing, its nod to the outdoors as a source of inspiration for daily life, and the designs make Otso a great fit for The Canvas. We try to curate products with the hope that anyone who comes to The Canvas can find something interesting. We think Otso will appeal to a wide range of customers in its ability to tie together responsibility with art and design for an aesthetically pleasing outcome.”
Otso - Where do you see the future of ethical fashion going and what lies ahead for The Canvas by Querencia?
Devin - “A more intentional approach to fashion is the only way forward. The industry is pushing beyond planetary boundaries in its use of materials, energy and water. With that, a shift to a better system is not only optimal but inevitable. The brands that recognize that now will lead the way in the future. The Canvas will be a platform for those brands, and a place to create the opportunities and initiatives that will push them forward. To do so, we intend to grow our physical presence around the world.”
Hobnobbing and networking done we hot-footed across Antwerp to sample some more delightful Belgian beers in the many bars the city has to offer.
We even managed a midnight bike ride with some friendly locals who took us to a bar called Café Beveren.
What we found at Cafe Beveren was an original Decap Organ! Apparently, there used to be a time when every ‘volks café’ (folk bar) in Antwerp had its own organ; yes really!
Instead of falling to pressures of modern society, like jukeboxes and DJs, this place has one of the only Decap Organs left. All you do is drop a Euro in the slot, and you get little orchestral pieces of God knows what. It’s both creepy and quaint at the same time but certainly worth a visit. Oompah oompah!
Sunday morning arrives and the scale of the hangover could be measured in megatons! What on earth were we drinking?
We need breakfast, so we head out to the city and into the back streets to find some hipster coffee shop. And we weren’t disappointed.
This place was so hipster we could feel our beards growing!
Hairs of the dog, a few more beers, some at 11.9% and we’re back up to cruising altitude in no time. Time for some food before we call it a night.
Another hipster cafe please!
After a visit to the amazing Atomium and Design Museum, it was fair to say we’d had a fantastic weekend.
It was made all the more special by seeing our very own Otso clothing in one of Belgium’s coolest new shops.
If you're ever in this hip Belgian city then it’s definitely worth a trip to The Canvas by Querencia, Groendalstraat 20, 2000 Antwerp @thecanvasbyq.antwerp