Brussels is one of Europe's best-kept secrets. The Belgian capital doesn't seem to attract the jet-setting glitterati who attract publicity. But the town does cater to the exceedingly comfortable life style of highly paid diplomats posted to the European Parliament, European Economic Commission or NATO, all headquartered there.
Brussels has some of Europe's finest dining establishments, and the city's shops are always ready to serve the international bureaucracy with the best of everything.
The greatest concentration of fine shops is found in the Avenue Louise. Fashionable Parisians are known to sneak away for a shopping spree in Brussels because the latest fashions are always available--and sometimes, depending on currency exchange rates, at lower prices.
List of Designers
Avenue Louise begins at the busy Place Louise and extends to the Bois de la Cambre. Most of the shops are in the blocks known as the goulet or goulot (bottleneck), a narrow stretch of the road between Place Louise and Place Stephanie, and a long list of fashion designers, including Louis Feraud, Thierry Mugler, Daniel Hechter, Bruno Magli, Gianfranco Ferre and others, have boutiques in this strip.
Max Mora (No. 9) has a well-stocked shop of his brightly colored clothes, with square-necked linen shifts ($150) and coat dresses (from $250). Valentino's Miss V Boutique (No. 41) is a large shop sectioned off into smaller boutiques featuring casual dresses or cocktail dresses, slacks and suits. Robert Chayenko (No. 1) has shops only in Paris and Brussels. His conservatively understated linen and silk shifts cost from $150 to $250. A lovely navy and white suit ($250) could easily move from office to theater and dinner. Marina Rinaldi (No. 13), an Italian designer with shops in top European cities but not yet in the United States, offers silk shirts and skirt ensembles, some with wildly floral prints and others with polka dots ($750) and matching umbrellas ($75). A conservative black wool suit ($500) is paired with an orange jungle-print shirt ($200). Rinaldi's clothes also fit larger sizes.
Pricey leather clothing, luggage and accessories are also available. Loewe, the Spanish leather designer, has a boutique on Place Louise. Vibrant colors are in vogue; blue suede skirts and matching tops ($1,000 each). Scarpino (No. 3), the Italian leather designer, is only slightly less expensive and features a full-cut blue leather coat ($1,000), leather loafers ($150) and ostrich pumps ($470). Celine (No. 27) and Louis Vuitton (No. 25) also have outlets.
Dujardin (No. 8-10) features children's clothing including shrimp-sized Lacoste shirts ($33), ties for tots ($7), brightly colored rubber raincoats ($50) and sox to match ($6). The shop carries sizes for infants to teens, and there are records, tapes, books and toys of all sorts. On the second floor, there's a maternity shop.
Down the road, New D (No. 26) is Dujardin's sprawling boutique for men and women, an Ivy League heaven. The men's department, downstairs, has plaid belts ($35) and matching socks ($10), cardigans in creamy purples and aquas ($100), Cacherel cotton shirts ($75) and brightly colored casual slacks ($125). On the second floor, women will find a rainbow of plastic raincoats or a bright green rubber slicker ($200), Hawaiian shirts with natives picking pineapples ($35), dresses, business suits, and a three-inch-wide, multicolored (red, green, yellow, blue, orange, white) woven leather belt ($40) that will go with anything.
Years of Finery
Bouvy (No. 4) is another first-rate boutique for men and women that for half a century has presented the latest and best in off-the-rack fashion, as well as made-to-order attire. For women there's a versatile paisley shawl from Portugal ($63) and a fancy floral shirt-and-skirt set ($200). A lightweight man's overcoat in white wool is $200, a durable, stylish leather trench coat $1,150. Suede slacks for men and women cost about $300. The L-shaped shop also has an entrance on Avenue de la Toison d'Or and another in the Galerie Louise.
Don't miss the collection of shops in Galerie Louise, a marble-walled shopping arcade midway down the goulet of Avenue Louise, with about 100 small shops and a connecting passage to Galerie de la Toison d'Or and its 100 shops. In Galerie Louise are the boutiques of St. Laurent, Courreges and other name designers, including top Belgian designer Olivier Strelli.
Black and White
Strelli's men's shop has a predominance of black and white, with jackets in fabulously textured fabrics ($225 to $300) and cotton and linen slacks with bits of color subtly woven in ($150). The women's shop has a more colorful array of linen and cotton jackets ($200 and up), some in interestingly crinkled fabrics, and bold, colorful shifts and big shirts.
Shoe sellers Salamandre de Paris and Casadei have salons in the Galerie Louise. The Galerie's exclusive jewelry shops include Van Cleef & Arpels. Fiorucci ties things up at the funky end.