.Ratio: Surreal retail.
There is nothing better than a few days in the lush green countryside is there? …well it can be improved if you add in culture, art, and shopping. So, if this rings true for you why not take a little hop over to Belgium, home of the red yellow and black flag. It is these colours that have been utilised by Artist Charles Kaisin, as the inspiration for his pop up celebration of his home country within the luxury Maasmechelen Village Designer retail outlet. The village is based in an area not far from Brussels and this special pop up is a total and utter celebration of where art, shopping, and culture meet: and a celebration of all that is Belgium.
Walk into the village main square, and the first thing you will see is the biggest ever recreation of Manneken Pis (little pisser). This iconic bronze statue which is a world-famous icon of the country, in reality is only 61 cm high and symbolises both the city’s independence of mind and sense of humour. But here, Charles has taken it to new heights. See a bright red 3d printed version that stands at over six metres high, the biggest ever made. In fact, the whole village has been taken with the artist’s surrealist, artistic expression.
Charles Kasin is an artist, known for a variety of creative projects, including interior projects, installations, product design as well as architecture. He has become increasingly known for his surrealist dinners which combine extravagance, divine food and renowned spectacular scenography all shrouded in his signature surrealist style.
He has talked of surrealism as being the perfect art form for his work, which crosses many disciplines. He personally collects much art in his home in Brussels all of which reflects his eclectic taste and his deep understanding of the mediums he works across. He talks with immence passion of each of the pieces he owns and the way they effect him on a creative level. Kaisin has also made recycling one of his favourite themes: niche objects with contemporary designs made from recycled materials.
There is a real generosity to the way he talks about his own as well as other artists projects. This comes across with the energy and vitality he has bought to the pop-up project with Maamechelen village. His ‘Joie de Vivre’ is so evident across the village that it’s hard not to smile and feel totally uplifted whilst wandering around. All the village visitors get to immerse themselves in the experience he has created.
Outside of the giant Manneken Pis, there are giant 3D words in red, yellow and black (of course) of LOVE and JOY which are dotted around the village. Many of the boutiques have decorated their windows in red, yellow and black. There are also giant domes dressed inside with red, yellow and black clothes bags and accessories from across the many stores. Some of the walls and walkways are covered in the giant red, yellow and black spheres, the iconic shape Charles has used to celebrate the Belgian tri-coloured flag. A circle, after all, has no end no beginning. As a symbol it is warm, inclusive and has a sense of completion and fulfillment which to be fair sums up Charles and his work.
Known as a true eccentric, he has metamorphosed the entire village to make it magical. It is already a beautifully designed almost fairytale place, with wide pathways plenty of toilets and of course many choices of places to eat, alongside a varied selection of high-end fashion brands. This means a full day out at the luxury village is a day well spent. Shop at brands such as G’star, Boss, Calvin Klein, Armani, Diesel, Nike, All Saints, Polo Ralph Lauren, Le Creuset and many more. The village has a great balance of fashion, accessories, homewares underwear and shoes. From now until September it is a complete celebration under the theme ‘Proud to be Belgian’. Charles’s mantra for the village is all of his country should be proud of their homeland.
He has talked of the world renown talent from Belgium. Think fashion designers such as Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Biernedonk, Ann Demeulemeester, and Raf Simons. Entertainment? That would be Tintin and The Smurfs, even Belgian footballers are in many leagues worldwide. He talks with great passion of the energy and the creativity, in his homeland.
A handful of journalists, some from Europe and others from as far-flung places as China came to celebrate the opening of the village pop-up. This included them joining in one of the famous surrealist lunches created by Charles. The dining room, complete with head-to-toe covered signature red, yellow and black spots as well as spotted chairs and even recycled bottles and vases wrapped in the red, yellow and black fabric. Upstairs was a room of coloured balls to dive into. The whole lunch was a performance with waiters presenting each course to the ring of a bell and culminating in a red, yellow and black chocolate sphere created by none other than chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini, who just happens to be a close friend of Charles.
But even so, this pop-up is about the visitors coming to join in and celebrate their own luxury shopping village and that is great about Belgium. Throughout summer, from April to September, this village is presenting a fully immersive art experience. Guests will also be able to enjoy a new pop-up café, ‘Made in Belgium’ which is covered from floor to ceiling in Kaisin’s vibrant print, where typical delicacies from Belgium will be served such as charcuterie, cheese plates, Belgian beers and much more.
There is a luxury coach service that runs from the centre of Brussels to Maasmechelen Village on every Saturday, Sunday and on Bank Holidays. Less than an hour’s drive from Brussels, Antwerp, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Maastricht, Maasmechelen Village is at the crossroads of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
Should Belgium not be easy for you to access then it’s good to know that Retail Village, the owner of this village and a handful of others, are dedicated to bringing culture to all their villages. Committed to supporting art and creativity, each village has its own celebration going on.
For example, the La Vallée Village in France gives you the chance to Pick your side: nature or technology? The village will be flooded with nature in the form of green walls, low-hanging plant arrangements and window displays featuring the colours of nature and floral prints. Then go on to discover the point where nature and technology meet – 4 March to 12 May. Visitors can take part in a series of in-boutique events and find out whether they are more nature or technology. Plus, there will be a competition for Privilege members, giving them the chance to win an electric scooter!
Or Kildare village in Ireland has POCO by Pippa a leading Irish clothing range designed by one of Ireland’s most loved lifestyle influencers, former model and businesswoman, Pippa O’Connor Ormond. Launched just over 2 years ago the brand has become a household name in Ireland and beyond, with orders shipping all over the world. The POCO range is an exclusive collection of denim jeans, shirts and jackets for any occasion required.
Or you could celebrate love at the Fidenza Village, Italy. The luxury village celebrates love with a unique series of artworks by Camilla Falsini. The LOVE project, in collaboration with Miart, the International Fair of Modern and Contemporary Art in Milan, is part of Fidenza Village’s ongoing commitment to promoting art and supporting creative talent.
There are also villages in Barcelona (La Roca Village) and Madrid (La Rozas Village) in Spain, Frankfurt (Wertheim village), and Munich (Ingolstadt Village) in Germany, as well as two in China in Suzhou Village and Shanghai Village. Expect a luxurious experience at each village.
To find out more about each, and every village, what to expect, how to get there and what experiences are on offer as well as the all-important shopping click here