le bloc 2017: Fashion and design for Cologne
Explore the Belgian Quarter’s creative scene for a day
There’s a huge queue outside Hallmackenreuther bar and restaurant on Brüsseler Platz. The jury is in situ. When prompted, men and women file individually down the runway and back again. The model casting for le bloc is in full swing. And it’s obvious what this year’s theme is: diversity. It’s a very mixed group of hopefuls, and none of them have the standard 90-60-90 measurements. For good reason. “We’re looking for variety,” says Chang from Boutique Chang13, one of the jurors.
Le bloc takes place for the ninth time on 10 June, when the Belgian Quarter transforms into one big pop-up store. In 2016, more than seven thousand fashion and design enthusiasts, creative people and friends from adjacent neighbourhoods flocked to the Belgian Quarter to celebrate le bloc. Local boutiques fling open their doors, put their summer collections on display and organise special events, workshops and surprise activities across the entire district. And no one needs to go hungry: there’s plenty of cafés and restaurants within walking distance.
The atmosphere is great, music’s in the air and what’s more, admission is totally free! More than 50 boutiques are set to participate in le bloc this year, including Alma, MATA Cologne, De Ridder: Concept Belgie and Keep Loving /P.art1. Sustainable fashion stores are also part of the line-up, among them as Fairfitters, Funktion Schnitt and Om Inside. Either way, this is an event on a major scale. For the first time this year, visitors can use the Findeling app to find their way around. Users can filter for specific themes and the app suggests suitable items on the programme.
Le bloc 2017: The highlights
Every year, the fashion shows, known as “blocwalks”, in the multi-story car park on Maastrichter Strasse are the biggest crowd magnets. At the heart of le bloc since the very beginning, this is where local labels and guest designers present their most recent collections. The shows proved so popular that in 2014, le bloc started to stage not one, but three of them. This year, a new venue was chosen that was only revealed on 18 May: St Michael’s church on Brüsseler Platz. No one knows how the designers plan to make use of this very special environment. What we do know, though, is that there will be an exciting new lighting concept. This year, the car park will host Der Super Markt, which is joining le bloc for the first time. Der Super Markt has been a Cologne mainstay since 2008 and is the perfect place for shoppers in search of interesting new designer pieces. Between midday and 8 pm, 40 stallholders will be here to sell jewellery, fashion, product designs, photo prints and paper goods.
How it all began
The Belgian Quarter started to make a name for itself as a creative scene and mecca for owner-run boutiques back in 2009. On a warm summer night, five creative brains – namely Chang (Chang13), Judith Schmidt (StadtRevue), Leonie Stockmann, Claudia Brigahn (Simon & Renoldi), Hon-Tai Shiau (Bob10510) and Stephanie Kayser (Fraukayser) – resolved to lift the creative potential of the district. They established a project group and celebrated the first le bloc fashion and design festival that same year. The name translates to “the block“, which in this case denotes the four main streets where the events take place: Antwerpener, Brüsseler, Maastrichter and Brabanter Strasse.