Fashion in Hasselt
The trade of weaving was already one of the pillars of the city in the year 1313. The textile industry became even more important in 1383 when the cloth weavers moved from Leuven to Hasselt due to political agitation in their hometown. At the time, Hasselt enjoyed great renown as a cloth city, partly because of the vicinity of The Kempen area where large quantities of wool were bought.
The Hasselt cloth was praised for its excellent quality and neat finish. It was sold in Liège, Namur, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Gorkum, Cologne, Frankfurt and Lübeck.
The cloth industry was of great economic and social importance to Hasselt. In the 15th century, one fifth of the population earned its daily bread by working in the cloth industry and in 1536 the city had about two hundred master cloth weavers. Even then, the trade of the “laeckenmeikers”, the master weavers and the weaver boys surpassed all the other trades in number of members and importance.
Hasselt has been a regional trade centre for a long time, but since WW II the fashion and textile business has been flourishing in a way that greatly exceeds the size of the city. Stylish clothes, luxury accessories and other fashion items attracted countless and frequent shoppers from Flanders, the Walloon provinces, the Netherlands and Germany.
The establishment of a fashion museum fits into the picture. On the one hand it can illustrate part of the social and creative history and on the other hand it can inspire people who wish to be active in fashion, today and in the future.
The Fashion Museum started its activities in the end of 1987 and opened its doors to visitors in 1989. After a break of a few years (1993-95) due to radical restoration and design works, the museum became permanently open to the public in its renovated accommodation on the 2nd of September 1995.
BUILDING FASHION MUSEUM
The Fashion Museum in Hasselt is situated in a historically valuable complex of buildings. The former convent and hospital of the Grauwzusters, a 17th-century building whose exact date of construction (AD 1664) can be read from the wall anchors in the facade.
This convent has always been a location of outspoken social significance, it has been given several different functions in the course of its history. For three centuries, the hospital played a central role in nursing the town’s sick. Under French rule it was given a new purpose like so many churches and convents. In 1796 the convent community was disbanded, and all clergy was ousted the year after. The premises were then used as a prison and subsequently as a barracks. As early as 1805, however, the old hospital wings were made available to the Committee of Civil Hospices to house a civil hospital, and not until 1818 did nursing again become the nuns’ responsibility.
Serious damage to the buildings during World War II, together with the need for more sophisticated hospital infrastructure necessitated the construction of a new hospital in a different location.
In 1957, a beginning was made with the building of the Virga Jesse Hospital, and in 1968 the last patients left the old hospital. The vacant premises then offered temporary accommodation to the Jenever Museum, the Town Museum, and the Municipal Cultural Office. When in 1988 the Municipal Fashion Museum (Stedelijk Modemuseum Hasselt) was opened, the complex was given its permanent purpose as a museum.
The restoration of the building between 1993 and 1995 has been done by architect Luc Vanroye. The interior, like the glass support structure between the two wings and furniture, has been designed by Vittorio Simoni.
The Museum can provide a guide. A tour takes about an hour and a half and costs € 70 (English – French -German).
One guide for a group of maximum 25 people.
For info and bookings please contact:
T: +32-11 23 95 43
Gasthuisstraat 11 Hasselt 3500 Belgium