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    kitsch killer Faust's Avatar
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    Default New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    From Haaretz - English version here. Hebrew version with a slideshow and pictures here. Full article below.

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    By Eugene Rabkin


    ANTWERP - Ann Demeuemeester, one of the few successful independent fashion designers
    today, hates talking about celebrities. "Even if I see them in my
    clothes, I would never tell anyone," she says. That does not mean
    that celebrities do not wear her meticulously crafted garments. "I
    want to wish a Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Ann Demeulemeester," says
    Patti Smith during her famous annual concert at the Bowery Ballroom in New York
    City. "Who?" a drunken man next to me asks. "She is
    a fashion designer," I reply. The man stares at me blankly.
    "Never mind," I turn around. And that's just the way I like to
    think of Demeulemeester, my unsung hero, the further away from the public, the
    closer to me.

    Like Patti Smith, Demeulemeester is an incorrigible romantic. In the world
    where self-deprecating irony has triumphed and people are mortally afraid of
    being serious, she is as intrepid and earnest in her words as she is in her
    work. She loves music, from which she draws so much inspiration that fashion
    critics often label her dark, moody clothes as punk or rock and roll.
    "It's always limiting to put a label on someone's work," says
    Demeulemeester in a low, but confident voice, her English punctured with the
    French "Voila!" whenever she finishes her train of thought.
    "At a certain point in my career I was influenced by this type of music
    and the freedom it symbolized. Music was quite present in my fashion
    shows, but there is much more to it. The most important thing about my work
    is communicating emotion through my garments. Sure, music helps
    accentuate certain feelings. The risk is, as I realize now, is that music
    can take away attention from the clothes. I never had the idea of making
    a rock and roll or a punk collection. Punk was a big part of my culture
    when I was eighteen, just like certain poets and artists are a part of my
    culture. It's an exchange of energy, but I get it from many sources, not
    just rock. I love classical music, too." These days
    Demeulemeester listens to The Cowboy Junkies, PJ Harvey, and Nick Cave, and she
    makes the soundtracks for all her shows in a music studio herself.

    Demeulemeester was born in a small Belgian town, Waregem (in 2001 she became
    its honorary citizen). She enrolled in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in
    Antwerp at the age of 18. This was the time when the Belgian government
    was heavily promoting fashion in order to help the country?s textile
    industry. The fashion program was not experimental as it is today ?
    Demeulemeester recalls quarreling with her teachers who wanted her to imitate
    Coco Chanel. In 1982, with the help of the textile industry, the Academy
    set up the Golden Spindle Award in order to promote local talent.
    Demeulemeester won the first competition. She still has a close relationship
    to the industry that is now dying out all over Western Europe. "I've
    always tried to produce in Belgium ? not because I am chauvinistic, but because
    I think it is right to support the businesses in your own country,"
    explains Demeulemeester. "What I couldn't do here I did in Italy.
    Some of the manufacturers are still in business because they produce clothes
    for Belgian designers. Still, it's very difficult for them now, because
    they have trouble finding skilled workers and production has become very expensive.
    We are trying to move production to other European countries, but we do it
    slowly. We test heavily before we commit
    to manufacturing somewhere new."

    Demeulemeester burst onto the fashion scene in 1986. Along with her five
    fellow students she took her collection to the London Fashion Week, showing it
    in a small stall. Their success was instant (Barneys ordered
    Demeulemeester?s entire collection on the spot). As critical acclaim
    piled on, these youngsters out of Belgium, a country back then known for
    anything but fashion, were dubbed ?The Antwerp Six? ? a term that was born because the fashion reporters were not used to
    Belgian names (someone asked Demeulemeester if she could change hers). Today,
    the term has become a fashion legend. Although every one of the six
    (Dries van Noten and Walter van Bierendonck, among others) had a different
    style, a phenomenon known as Belgian fashion was born. Demeulemeester is still referred
    to as ?a Belgian designer,? although one would be hard pressed to say what is
    Belgian about her work. Like some of her fellows, she decided to remain
    in Antwerp instead of moving to Paris or Milan (she shows in Paris). She
    spends most of the time working in her atelier, which is adjacent to her Le
    Corbusier built house outside of Antwerp. Demeulemeester works closely
    with her husband, photographer Patrick Robyn. They have a 23-year-old
    son, Victor, who is an art student. Recently, Demeulemeester bought
    another house in the country, where she works some of the time.

    In the industry as transient as fashion, where clothes and people rapidly go
    out of style, Demeulemeester has remained steadfast. She has built a successful
    career based on permanence, disregarding trends and eschewing
    advertising. Demeulemeester's sartorial vocabulary - cropped tailored
    jackets, black slim trousers, biker boots, and asymmetric cardigans - is as
    fresh today as it was twenty years ago. Even though you will never
    see a logo on her garments, Demeulemeester's clothes are unmistakably hers, a
    continuation of her personality. Needless to say, she wears her own
    designs every day.

    Demeulemeester has been designing for over twenty years, and looking back on
    her work one can see a clearly marked trajectory. "I stay faithful
    to my own style," Demeulemeester says. "It's more interesting
    to have strong individual voices in fashion. I am not the kind of a
    designer who switches every season from this to that ? I would feel like
    betraying my own label." Although Demeulemeester adores blank canvas (an
    artist's ground zero), she isn't one herself. "I aim to construct an
    individual style from one collection to the next. Each collection tells a
    different story and projects a different mood. Yet, the Ann
    Demeulemeester style is clear. Whatever we want to express, we do so
    within our own aesthetic. This enables our clients to gradually construct
    their wardrobe. You can wear something from ten years ago with something
    from today, and it will work, because the soul is the same."

    Thanks to her integrity and singular view, Demeulemeester attracts an avid and
    loyal following. I've encountered her work for the first time in
    1999. At Barneys, I bought a very loosely knit wool sweater, blacker than
    the black hole. It looked and felt like an elegant spider web. This
    followed by a pair of white pants painted muted silver. Wearing both, I
    felt like a chic version of Trent Reznor. Better yet, I felt myself. My
    infatuation with her clothes has not diminished since. I feel like I found a
    friend who speaks to me through her clothes. I did not need to get to know
    her, I knew her already. To Demeulemeester, that is best
    compliment. "My clients buy my clothes not because they are trendy,
    but because they understand them. I go to another side of the globe and I
    meet people who know my work. I don't know who they are, but this
    communication through clothes is beautiful. It's what I started in
    fashion for."

    Possessing a strong vision allows Demeulemeester to concentrate on seemingly
    small things ? on how your wallet pulls at your pocket and makes it stand out
    with time, for example. She then cuts these intangible ideas into her
    clothes. If you are looking for perfectly streamlined garments, look
    elsewhere. As any romantic, Demeulemeester is wooed by human imperfection
    ? her jackets are asymmetric, her tees' hems uneven, shirts' seams
    twisted. "I want to put a soul in a garment. I don't want my
    clothes to be perfect, because human beings are not perfect. You can meet
    somebody in one of my jackets and it can all look a bit wrong, but also human
    and beautiful. Cutting nonchalance into a garment is difficult, because
    you can't just make an oversized or an asymmetric garment ? it will look ugly.
    Making it look natural is delicate work. If it's too obvious, then it looks
    fake. Balancing the garment is a painstaking task, because you have to
    keep in mind how the clothes move."

    Such attention to detail and preoccupation with the moving
    silhouette infuses Demeulemeester's garments with a sense of sweeping elegance
    rarely found elsewhere. The clothes are soft and confident at the same
    time ? they are neither off-putting nor inviting, but rather intriguing.
    "How the clothes fall and move is an indispensable part of my sartorial
    language. For instance, in the jacket I am wearing,? she puts her cropped
    blazer on the table, ?one side hangs off just a little bit, but it's no
    accident ? it's cut to always hang like that. I balanced both sides
    towards the front, one more than the other, so the front is a bit longer than
    the back. To achieve this, I had to move the shoulder seams
    forward. To maintain this subtle balance I had to move the side seams to
    the back, and I added another dart in the back. The result is that the
    jacket takes a lived-in, human shape. Also, the fabric is different on
    the reverse side of the lapel. I was thinking of poets, and I had a piece
    of fabric from the 19th century where the black stripes resemble handwriting,
    so I asked my manufacturer to replicate it. I did a similar thing
    with men's jackets. I wanted to make a jacket that hangs a little lower
    in the front than in the back ? it makes men fragile, human, and poetic."

    Demeulemeester grows her brand carefully (after all these years she employs
    only five assistants). She expands when it feels right; therefore she has
    never had to bow to outside pressure. For the first ten years, she only
    designed for women. Menswear came only after she was persuaded by her
    husband and her friends who wanted the same clothes she did for women. Recently,
    Demeulemeester launched a small fine jewelry collection, which includes
    necklaces with translucent and opaque diamonds from Antwerp.

    Despite her line being sold in hundreds of stores worldwide,
    there was only one Ann Demeulemeester boutique in the world until last year, in
    Antwerp. The stunning 19th Century building that houses her shop sits
    across the Museum of Fine Art in the now trendy Het Zuid neighborhood. It
    used to be a chemistry laboratory for the ministry of agriculture. The
    huge lofty space is completely open ? all the furniture is white, just like in
    her studio, and the walls are wrapped in white canvas. "We wanted to
    have a shop for a long time," explains Demeulemeester. "We
    dreamt of a place where we could fully depict our universe. One evening
    we were having dinner in this very square, and we saw this old building with a
    'for sale' sign. We instantly knew we
    wanted it. We didn't think we could afford it, but three days later it
    was ours. I wanted one big space inside and a garden, so we gutted
    everything. We left the beautiful fašade untouched, but the inside we
    made ours. We wanted to make big
    dressing rooms where you can feel absolutely comfortable and private. I
    thought how I would want to be treated when I buy clothes ? I hate pushy salespeople
    and tiny changing rooms without mirrors.I wanted a real luxury ? a
    space of one's own."

    Last year Demeulemeester opened three boutiques, all in Asia. There is a
    Tokyo shop in Omotesando Hills, one in Hong Kong, and most recently a store in Seoul.
    The latter, a product of collaboration with the young South Korean architect
    Minsuc Cho, received a lot of publicity in architecture magazines. Its
    fašade is completely covered with live green plants (embedded sprinkles ensure
    their growth). The interior contains all the elements of the original
    store, complete with blank canvas screens and white sofas. On first
    impression, the store seems rather whimsy for the normally sober
    Demeulemeester, but she finds it fitting, "We wanted that shop to be our
    wild child, that's why you see a wall full of plants, which will grow and take
    new shapes. The older I get the more I need nature and I love gardening.
    We wished to put our own piece of greenery into a rapidly expanding city of
    glass and cement. The shop reminds me of my Le Corbusier house, which is
    really a white cube. The soul is the
    same as the Antwerp shop, but in another package." Working on the
    store was an interesting experience for Demeulemeester, "In Seoul
    everything is new. You can't work like that in Europe where everything is
    old and built up, and you have to respect that. In Seoul we started from
    zero. It's nice to adapt to a different place ? I couldn't do a shop like
    that here." She is open to the idea of more Ann Demeulemeester boutiques
    in the future, provided she finds the right partners.


    We are sitting in a small room in the back of Demeulemeester?s Antwerp
    boutique. The room is painted white, with a white table in the middle and
    a rack of clothes in the back. The one big window opens up onto a little
    courtyard framed by a vine covered red brick wall. Demeulemeester
    sits across from me, dressed in a white asymmetrical t-shirt with a painted
    circle in the middle, a black cropped vest, and black pants. She is
    petite, but her energy is relentless. Her expressive face shows slight
    signs of aging, which she loves. Growing old is human, and therefore
    beautiful. (Pointing to a photograph of Leonard Cohen on the wall, she
    says dreamily, "What a handsome man.") Her hands are those of an
    artisan, uncared for and alive (She still does a lot of things herself, like
    the half-scissor necklaces she did for the current men's collection, for which
    she bought a bunch of old scissors, took them apart, dipped them in paint, and
    put them on a black string). Demeulemeester detests the idea that
    femininity is automatically equated with bubbly fussiness. She makes womens
    footwear wider on purpose, so it's comfortable. "Are we modern, or
    are we old fashioned?!" exclaims she. "We are still fixated on
    the idea that women have tiny feet and have to squeeze into tiny uncomfortable
    shoes. Things don't have to be that way. I can make a perfectly elegant
    pump, but you will be comfortable in it."

    Lighting up her Kent cigarette, Demeulemeester talks of passion, emotion, and of
    the visceral impact of art. Oscar Wilde once declared, "One should
    either be a work of art or wear a work of art." Demeulemeester fully
    subscribes to this notion. Indomitable in her philosophy of creating from
    the heart, she fashions her own world, tailored of moody, romantic clothing,
    rendered in black and white, and as close to art as fashion can get.

    ER: You have a close relationship with art. You've referenced Kara Walker
    and Jim Dine, among others. What do you feel when you transpose their
    work into your medium?

    AD: The most important thing about people who make emotionally driven work is
    that their creations are charged with energy, which pushes me to create
    something beautiful too. Sometimes I experience a piece of music, or a
    sentence in a poem, the mood in a painting, something abstract, nothing to do
    with clothes, which goes right to my heart. It's this spiritual impact
    that inspires me. That is the feeling I got when I saw a Jim Dine
    exhibition. I felt bewitched. I thought, ?I am going to write him a
    letter.? I know it sounds na´ve, but I did it anyway. I wanted to
    relay this emotional impact through my work, to let my audience discover what I
    discovered. Two weeks later Jim Dine was sitting with me in
    Antwerp. I felt giddy, like a little girl, but in five minutes we were
    working together. I wanted to imagine a photograph of his as a garment, to
    enwrap myself in the photo. Jim made an image especially for the
    collection, and I put it on silk through an inkjet printer. The idea was
    that instead of putting his photo on your wall, you put it on your body.

    ER: In the current menswear collection you reference not just one artist, but
    an entire movement. What attracted you to Dada?

    AD: I am very drawn to High Modernism in general and Dadaism in
    particular. Marcel Duchamp is one of my favorite artists. For this
    collection, I imagined that Dadaists are alive today, and they are going on
    vacation to the South of France. How would they dress? We thought
    how beautiful and free, how distinguished and chic they would look in a modern
    and a bit shocking way. I don't know how they dressed back then, I just
    envisioned it from seeing their work: the black, the white, the red, the
    graphic elements. And we wanted to be playful ourselves, the way the
    Dadaists were. So, we took the famous ?DADA? print, but we made the
    "D" a bit longer, so you can read ?DADA? or PAPA, or you can read it
    backwards and see my initials. At the show we played an interview with Marcel Duchamp
    I found by coincidence. I was in
    Shanghai a few months before the show with my husband and we bought a beautiful
    red record at a flea market. We decided that it would be Dadaistic to
    play this record at the show for the first time without knowing what's on it,
    which is what we did.

    ER: You primarily work with black and white. Why?

    AD: Originally, I had worked a lot on the shape and the cut
    of the garments, and when I am making a new shape, I don't want to be
    distracted by color. Doing it in black or white allows me to see the
    garment in its purest shape. It's like sculpting ? the sculptor does not
    work with color, he sculpts in plaster. I always make the first version
    of a garment in black and white. If in the process of making a garment I come
    to a finishing point, then I don't feel like I need to add anything, because
    the garment is exactly to my liking. And this would often happen before
    thinking of color. It still happens, but I feel that with time it's nice
    to add color too. Since the main image of Ann Demeulemeester is clear, we
    can now experiment more with color and print. Color is also a feeling,
    and I don't feel the way I did ten years ago. Sometimes I feel like
    concentrating on the purity of the design, or I feel like I need some romanticism,
    something light and amazing ? something beautiful in its naivetÚ. I try
    to look at color in another way ? it's not just another print for a
    dress. There are emotions in the colors and the prints. We make the
    prints ourselves, and they fit within a certain mood or a story.

    ER: What is the story behind the prints in the upcoming, fall 2008, collection?

    AD: The entire collection was inspired by a Bob Dylan song, Knocking on Heaven's Door[/i]. It is a
    great anti-war song ? it shakes you out of your skin. For the show I got
    together all the versions of the song covered by different musicians. I
    asked Patti Smith to record a version for it as well. I imagined that Bob
    Dylan is 20 today ? what would he wear to bring the message of the song?
    I don't know what he wore back then, but I thought of flowers. I could never find the combination of colors
    that my favorite flowers in our garden have, so my husband suggested that we
    make a print of them. I cut and dried the flowers, and my husband photographed
    them. We then we put the print on fabric.

    ER: I sense that this is a bit of a newly found creative freedom for you.
    Do you feel like you have come to a place in your life that allows you to do

    AD: Yes. I feel like Ann Demeulemeester is a brand that is clearly
    recognizable by now. The aesthetic is there, and we can now work with
    color, but present it the way we want. It also gives my assistants more
    freedom. And it surprises people, which is good.

    ER: Do you often feel like you know what fabric you need to manifest a certain

    AD: Absolutely. And the other way around, we often start with the
    fabric. First we develop the material, and then we think about finding
    the perfect shape for it. The material often dictates the design.

    ER: What are your favorite fabrics?

    AD: I love light nicely woven wool that can age with time. I like the
    essence of white cotton. I like silk. We often make our own
    fabrics, so we start with the basic ones ? then other materials can come into
    play, such as linen and ramie, then the patterns and the yarn, the weave, the
    treatments. It rarely happens that we just find the fabric we
    need. We have the manufacturers who we've worked with for twenty years,
    and they are willing to listen to us. It's a long process, and there is
    always the pressure of time, but in the end we have the fabrics that no one
    else has.

    ER: Originally, you designed only for women. How did the menswear come

    AD: Many of my male friends were asking me for clothes, starting with my
    husband. They would point to a particular garment and ask for a men's
    version. I did not want to do it, because I felt already busy with the
    women's, but they convinced me. Now it grew into a big collection.
    Sometimes I make something for women with a certain mood, but there are also
    men who can relate to the same aesthetic. It's not difficult to project
    the mood, but the male body is different and so is the work that goes into
    making men's garments.

    ER: It may seem that you have androgyny in mind.

    AD: I don't consider my clothes androgynous at all. There is tension in
    human beings between the feminine and the masculine elements, and that is
    intriguing. I am not saying that I like masculine women or feminine
    men. I believe that these elements are intertwined in everyone. Possessing
    something aggressive and fragile creates a contrast, and if I succeed in
    putting that contrast into a garment, it comes to life. Some say
    that putting a woman in trousers, a vest, and boots is androgynous. I
    don't feel that way. I don't put men in skirts (well, maybe one day I
    will), but I have put men in pink trousers or a jacket with flowers, which are
    not classic men's items. I think that fragility in men is
    beautiful. It's not for everyone, but I like different men. I
    always make collections where there is a choice in sensibility, something that
    my father, my husband, and my son, can wear. I try to stay close to the
    human beings, and not in a fashion bubble. I want to make beautiful and
    wearable garments.

    ER: Unlike most fashion designers, you never advertise. Why?

    AD: If I advertise, then I have to raise the price of the clothes, which
    does not help my audience. We did not have the money in the beginning,
    and it?s become sort of a tradition not to advertise. Nevertheless, it's
    very gratifying to see my clothes in a magazine. It makes the compliment
    real. I like the clothes to speak for themselves.

    ER: How did you end up working with your business director, Anne Chapelle?

    AD: She started working for me more than
    15 years ago. The firm was growing fast, and I was still controlling
    everything myself. To design collections and run the company was too
    much for one person, and I was losing control, because obviously the design
    part would always prevail, and I'd leave all the paperwork behind. My son
    was little back then, and he had a friend, whose mother was Anne
    Chapelle. She used to drive them both to school. One day I started
    talking to her about my problems, and she offered to help. She was
    running another company at the time, but she left to work with me. We
    work as partners, and this has allowed me to remain independent.

    ER: There is a new Ann Demeulemeester line in the works, Collection Blanche.

    Yes, it is a collection of pieces reintroduced from my archives. I called
    it Collection Blanche because it's like a blank canvas ? each time I can start
    it anew. I put the name in French, because it is the language of the
    poets I admire, such as Rimbaud and Baudelaire. With this collection I
    wanted to transcend time. The pieces in it are like the old friends that
    everybody misses. I've gotten many requests from friends and clients who
    missed a certain piece and really wanted to own it. I decided it would be
    a good idea to reproduce some garments. We are starting our second season
    of Collection Blanche, and the memories of the pieces I want to wear again come
    flooding back.

    At a certain point the line was born out of need, because
    some stores in the middle of the season sell out of my clothes. They kept
    asking me for a cruise collection, but there will be no Ann Demeulemeester
    cruise collection, so I found my own solution. The collection is very
    limited ? a few pieces that construct a wardrobe ? a pair of trousers, a shirt,
    a skirt, a jacket, a bag, etc. For now it is women's only.

    Demeulemeester does not feel comfortable making grandiose plans. She
    would like to do a perfume, if she finds the right partner. "I need
    to do it my way, because I am not interested in just making anything with my
    name on it," she says. ?You know those perfume commercials where
    it's always the same girl running to the same tree ? I don't want
    that." For now she is getting ready for the Paris menswear show at
    the end of June. As we drive to my hotel in her black convertible Saab,
    she talks in Dutch to her assistants on the car's speakerphone. For
    Demeulemeester, "What remains is the future," as one of her t-shirts
    reads. "I always say the future is open, and having the impression that
    anything can happen makes everything exciting. Freedom is the biggest
    luxury, so I try to make decisions as I go. Hopefully I can still invent
    a lot of things."

    Eugene Rabkin teaches critical writing at Parsons the New School For Design in New York.

    Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months - Oscar Wilde

    StyleZeitgeist Magazine

  2. #2

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    great Faust, enjoyed it verymuch.

  3. #3

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    Great article Faust!

    Interesting bits about the business side, I guess the higher pricepoints would be partly explained by the specially-made fabrics (despite moving construction to other countries).

    Really liked this part: "Whatever we want to express, we do so
    within our own aesthetic. This enables our clients to gradually construct
    their wardrobe. You can wear something from ten years ago with something
    from today, and it will work, because the soul is the same."

    And someone needs to hook her up with that Christopher Brosius fella (CB I Hate Perfume) if she wants to put out a fragrance. Guy seems to be pretty talented at recreating specific scents (or memories of scents).

  4. #4

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    I love the paragraph about the intricate detail that goes into the cut of her clothes to make them hang a certain way. I like the idea that something very studied and intentional results in a certain beautiful imperfection and nonchalance in her clothes. It's nice to hear how involved she is with the design and personal connection to the clothes and those who wear them, makes me all warm inside.

  5. #5

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    drexl, did you check his stuff at les commissaires? it is pretty interesting.

  6. #6

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    [quote user="deuxmille"]

    drexl, did you check his stuff at les commissaires? it is pretty interesting.


    Nope, I didn't even know anybody carried his stuff here!

    Wow, thanks for the heads-up, will def. check out his stuff next time I'm near St-Laurent.

  7. #7

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    Thoughtful article, will try to reflect later.
    Selling CCP, Harnden, Raf, Rick etc.

  8. #8

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    excellent article [Y]

    "AVANT GUARDE HIGHEST FASHION. NOW NOW this is it people, these are the brands no one fucking knows and people are like WTF. they do everything by hand in their freaking secret basement and shit."


  9. #9

    Default Re: New Article on Ann Demeulemeester

    A thoroughly enjoyable read Faust!! Thanks and thanks again for bringing this article to us!
    Quote Originally Posted by Faust View Post
    fuck you, i don't have an attitude problem.


    "She is very ninja, no?" ~Peter Jevnikar

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