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  • Illustrations by Mr Richard Haines

Five hundred years ago the ancient port of Antwerp was the richest city in northern Europe, thanks largely to wealth spun from the textile industry. More recently the city has re-established itself as a fashion capital thanks to the emergence of the influential Antwerp Six - a collective of avant-garde designers who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the 1980s.

Thanks to the six, who included Mr Dries van Noten and Ms Ann Demeulemeester, as well as other renowned Antwerp designers such as Messrs Martin Margiela and Raf Simons, the Royal Academy has become a haven for fashion students. Many of today's graduates, rather than take their skills and decamp to Paris or New York, are opting to stay in Antwerp, a small design hub that punches above its weight as an incubator of talent.

This can be seen in the fashion-forward dress sense of some of the locals - as the New York-based fashion illustrator Mr Richard Haines discovered on his recent visit. Click through the gallery, above, to meet some of the city's coolest characters: a different kind of Antwerp Six.; to see Mr Haines' sketches from Tokyo, click here.

Words by Mr Dan Rookwood, US Editor, MR PORTER