Working-Class Neighborhood Offers Chic Shops

Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

Rue Antoine Dansaertstraat is two blocks long and in the heart of an old, undistinguished, working-class neighborhood.

But chic, trend-setting shops, with prices that lean toward the high side, are making the street one of this city's best for shopping, and are drawing customers from other European capitals.

Pyramide Design (No. 10) is Brigitte Burton's shop for fine and unusual home furnishings, featuring the work of Belgian and international designers. The French-Hungarian designer Martin Szekely's inventive roll-top bookcase ($1,317 U.S.), a one-of-a-kind, is made of aluminum.

From France there are reproductions of 1934 Art Deco chairs ($135) made of silver-colored metal. Other chairs include Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata's exotic copper-wire straightbacks, French designer Philippe Stark's nouvelle chaises , or elongated armchairs, and Italian designer Kartell's stylish stackable chairs in aqua and gray (sold in sets of three at $136 per chair).

Khymo (No. 16) sells Italian-design men's and women's wearables. Women's ensembles include Martino Midali's purple cotton-knit trousers ($78), with matching purple and black overblouses ($114).

Men's fashions include Marko Alexander's textured knit sweaters ($143) in a medley of browns, or see-through knit sweaters in black ($124), as well as Grupo Storko's tailored cotton T-shirts in vibrant greens.

Chabada (No. 20) is the choicest fashion shop on the street. The exceptional and eclectic collection contains a wide range of Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Romeo Gigli and other designers.

The racks are filled with Gaultier's eccentric tuxedos ($1,082), Equipment's shirts in bold black-and-white checkered patterns ($109), British designer David Fielden's pink and black strapless satin gown with a pink rose prominently positioned at the bust ($487), plus mechanics' jumperlike jump suits by Sybilla and Raysse's sweater and pedal-pusher sets ($102).

Accessories include Christian Lacroix's broad belts ($97 to $146) in purple and red suede, plus necklaces ($104), bracelets ($83) made of wood, coconut shell chips painted green, and handbags of leather-covered wood that are shaped to look like portable electric heaters.

Casuals for Men

Stijl, a fashion conglomerate, has three shops on Rue Dansaertstraat. No. 22 carries extremely modish and mostly casual clothes for men. Women's fashions of similar genre are at No. 26. The shop at No. 47 features men's and women's underwear.

Black, white and gray tank tops ($14 and up) with one shoulder or wraparound straps, and clinging above-the-knee leggings (from $24), can easily double as cheeky chic exercise or leisure wear, as can the stylish front-pleated boxer shorts (from $30).

Kat (No. 32) has designer clothing for children. Kenzo provides cute flower-print dresses ($78) and skirts ($49) for little girls. For dress-up occasions, boys can buy houndstooth suits with short pants ($46) and tailored jackets ($70).

Olily, a Dutch designer, is represented with three-quarter-length pants ($53) in almost-neon colors, and little shoes in equally bright hues. Perfect for wearing with the shoes are the shop's selection of socks ($6) featuring tick-tack-toe games, heifers at pasture, Halloween pumpkins and maps of California.

At Maison Sougne (No. 33) the Vlerick family has been selling "articles de peche ," or fishing equipment, since 1929. There are lifelike hand-tied flies ($10 and up) for trout fishing (which happens to be exceptional in Belgium), along with flies colored for catching salmon ($3 and up) specifically in Alaska, Scotland or Sweden.

Fishing Equipment

Rods are $15 and up. Signed, split-cane Brunner rods (only 100 a year are handmade in Austria) cost about $1,000. Other very special rods are designed for fishing for carp or roach, and cost about $250. There are also multipocketed jackets, wet-resistant sweaters and waterproof rain slickers, plus nets woven of wire ($13).

Robert Clergerie, the Parisian shoemaker extraordinaire , has a boutique at No. 34. Exceptionally well-made men's footwear is $192 to $207. Women's shoes cost $125 to $146.

Crea (No. 53) is a boutique established two years ago by Belgian designers Francine Seguin and Jenny Meirens. It includes black knit skirts gathered across the hips ($85), matched with black sweat shirts that stop at the waist and are topped with a bright red collar ($97).

Big and bulky sweaters in mauve and other lively colors cost $63. The boutique also carries Commes des Garcons' funky, asymmetrical outfits and accessories, including purple suede boots by Freelance.

Rue Blanche (No. 54) is Belgian designer Marie Regout's showcase for her neo-traditional womens' sweaters in fancy knit patterns with pretty lace collars (from $75) or big-collared bulky knits ($97 to $250).

Cheerful, smart-looking striped cotton jersey ensembles have skirts and long- ($70) or short-sleeved ($39) tops. Marie Regout perfected her art while working for Scapa for eight years. She's had her own boutique for two years and is becoming a well-known name in European shopping capitals and in Japan.

Mail-Order Tailor

Creation et Freddy Tailor (No. 61) is a fine tailor for custom-made men's and women's traditional suits from $500 to $610. The process requires three fittings and takes three to four weeks for delivery. However, the shop retains all measurements and will take mail-orders for suits.

Chappelle Opticien (No. 65) offers a collection of designer eye-wear, including Gaultier's frames with a tightly wound spring across the top of the lenses and Robert La Roche's convenient and classy snap-up shades ($241), plus a variety of 1930s and 1950s repro glasses priced from $134.

Also, the shop sells corrective lenses for dogs. These pooch specs come in three sizes and cost $48.

Ancienne Maison A. Orlans (No. 67-69) is famous for tailoring custom-made suits and uniforms for the extensive and well-groomed population of European Economic Community personnel and other diplomats stationed in Brussels. The shop, 30 years old, has an air of unpretentious elegance and refinement.

Suits are entirely handmade, except for pants pockets, of fine English and Italian wools, and cost $1,200 and up. Suits made for export are 20% less because of the store's on-the-spot tax rebate policy. Customers choose styles from up-to-date magazines provided by the shop. Delivery takes five to six weeks.

Designer is Ex-Architect

Sanz (No. 71) is owned by Belgian architect-turned-designer Luc Sanz, who sells his chic structural clothing along with that of other fine designers. Sanz's inventive styles are all made on the premises, in a loft studio that overlooks the shop.

Included in the styles are red asymmetrically buttoned shirts with Mao collars ($109) and one-pocket buttonless shirts slit to the waist ($109), to be worn with men's silk harem pants ($182) and fine leather belts with gold-plated clasps ($73).

In addition, there are ensembles by Miyake and Girbaud, and Spanish designer Adolfo Dominguez's unusual, black square-shaped vests ($158) and loose-fitting rayon and viscose pleat-front trousers ($134). Aside from the fine clothing, Sanz offers chic shopping bags made of corrugated cardboard.

Prices reflect currency-exchange rates at time of writing.

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