Ghent recently gained a new gem. Always fun when that happens! Meet Illinois, Eveline Van Gestel’s new hangout place!
Located at Onderbergen, the shop shares a sidewalk with various of my personal favourites. This of course led me to spot the new shop sign pretty fast, and it wasn’t long before I went over to take a peek (and ended up having a lovely chat with the shop owner!). Read her story below.
What led you to open Illinois?
My parents have been the owners of a clothing store for over thirty years, so I literally grew up in that world. I was twelve when I started to lend a hand in the shop, but what I really wanted to do was make radio! This led me to study Journalism and intern at Radio 1. During my final year of college, I worked in a children’s shoe store, and after graduating, I went back to work for my parents. Over the time I had discovered how much I enjoyed working in a store, so I combined my work there with my work in a bookshop. Slowly but surely the idea of founding my own store started to form in my head. Thanks to knowing exactly what I wanted and finding a great place, this idea became real a lot sooner than expected.
What does Illinois stand for?
Illinois is a very personal store. I want people to feel at home when they visit, I want them to be able to be their true self. Upon discovering pretty products, I’ll get very excited! Whether it’s a fine pair of jeans or a Bellerose blouse in a special print. I get even more excited when I hear someone sincere share his/her story, so with Illinois I want to combine all of those things.
How do you pick out what items to sell?
It’s extremely important to me that my store only holds collections that I fully support. If it’s not something I would wear (or would want my boyfriend to wear), it’s not getting a hanger in my rack. I rarely make an exception, but when I do, it’s for a quality piece that I really like on other people, but wouldn’t necessarily wear myself. Like a pair of bootcut jeans! Most of the brands I sell have been my favourites for years (think Bellerose and American Vintage). Others were accidental discoveries. Generally it doesn’t take me long to figure out if a piece has the Illinois feel to it, or not. Call it a gut feeling.
You also sell books and lp’s?
It was of the utmost importance to me that Illinois would be a personal place. So it had to be something that resembled ‘me’. I have a real weak spot for pretty books, and have a passion for music (I used to go to a concert once a week), so it was quite the no-brainer to incorporate both of those passions into the shop. The store was actually named after a record: Illinois(e) by Sufjan Stevens. I left out the ‘e’ at the end to make it a little more masculine.
Can you elaborate on the interior of the shop?
I deliberately went for an all pure look: think white walls and black racks. I like to think of it as a “no-nonsense” store.
The large table in the centre of the store, I stumbled upon by accident. It stood in a restaurant that later turned out to be a pop-up resto, so they’d only be using it for a limited time. The table top came from a 100 year old plane. It’s the kind of object that gives me happy vibes everytime I look at it! I was also set on having an old counter somewhere in the store… I now have two! Finally I have a weak spot for plants, but even more so for flowers, so you’ll always bump into some of those here!
Thanks for the chat, Eveline! x