This is our new section on favourite designers from the streets. We begin this journey with my all time favourite among the Antwerp 6, ANN DEMEULEMEESTER.
Here I would like to include a personal diary entry from the summer of 2007-
"A cold dampness in the air, the cobbled streets have been freshly sprinkled with a drizzle. A strong flavour of hot waffles welcomed me as I walked out of the Antwerp Central station towards Verlatstraat. Next to the kitchen specialist ‘Obumex’ where you could find units designed by the minimalist architect John Pawson, just around the corner of Leopold de Waelplaats and Verlatstraat stands the store I had been waiting for all along my trip from Amsterdam. The Ann Demeulemeester store is one of the many great things about Antwerp along with the chocolates, diamonds, waffles, beer and a healthy portion of the best fries and mayonnaise.
Unstructured jacket, oversized t-shirt dresses draped as beautifully as ever against the skin, asymmetric vests, leather outerwear, skinny trousers, chunky leather boots, antique inspired jewellery and accessories with a strong sense of personal style. Ann Demeulemeester designs garments with impeccable cuts, monochromatic palette with a blunt edginess and a punk feminity. An Ann Demeulemeester creation may be anti-fashion in a way but oozing with a strong sense of personal style. Paying no heed to the passing trends or didactics of the fashionistas the Ann Demeulemeester label has solemnly stood for a slouchy, layered, menswear inspired modernity. She feels that her garden resembles her clothes, which she likes to think, are romantic, poetic, elaborate and wild.
The free spirit of the fashion world, a true believer in the power of beauty and freedom, Ann Demeulemeester just follows her heart without any compromise. She communicates with people through fashion, just like a musician, an artist or a writer. Through her designs Ann has reached people whom she would have never known otherwise. Today she is one of the most coveted names among Flemish designers for her absolutely unique sense of aesthetics. She is one among the bunch of brilliant designers who passed out of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp between the years 1980 and 1981; popularly called the ‘Antwerp Six’ because their names were too difficult for the world to pronounce. Dries van Noten, Bernard Wilhelm, Martin Margiela, Dirk Bikkembergs, Walter Van Beirendonck and Ann Demeulemeester, stylistically extremely diverse from each other; these young geniuses had a huge impact on the contemporary fashion of the early eighties.
Demeulemeester spins her tale around a fashion classic. Imagine a vintage double breasted jacket in a classic black blended with a touch of romance that muse her and a potion of her personal sense of style. What results is an out of the world collection, power of which is such that even if you are not a card-carrying member of her club, there is something in it for you.
The year 1976, not long before Ann had left her small Flander’s town of Waregem to study at the Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, she made a startling discovery at a local music store. The sight of “Horses”, legendary Punk Rock idol Patti Smith’s 1975 debut album reigned her mind.
“I am going to know this woman.” This was her reaction. Yes, she knows her very well now. They are soul mates put in different parts of the world brought together by destiny. Demeulemeester is a great believer of intuition and fate and the way life brings people together. Music is a great source of her inspiration. It was music that got the two similar people together. Beauty of mind creates freedom, freedom of mind creates beauty, she says. Music is like a transmission of energy to her. It is the same kind of energy that films, books, art, or poems have. This energy is always responsible to create a drive in her to give the best of herself.
Her first collection was showed in the year 1987 followed by her first show in Paris in 1992. In 2005, Ann Demeulemeester showed her first menswear line along with the women’s collection in Paris. While other designers court the press, Demeulemeester prefers to avoid the media and keeps to her Belgium’s only Le Corbusier house. Unperturbed by her contemporaries she adheres to her individualistic approach towards life as well as towards fashion; today Ann Demeulemeester is a unique instance of original style quintessentially Belgian.
If you happen to be in Antwerp and take interest in the unique sense of fashion that characterizes it, make sure that you visit the MOMU, the fashion museum. It stands right around the corner of Nationalestraat, at a walking distance from the Antwerp central station. The entrance has a neo modern glass wall with a polished wooden door leading to the reception. The first floor holds a moving exhibition and the ground floor has an archive of the works of the a handful of Flemish fashion designers, the likes of Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela, Rick Owens and of course Ann Demeulemeester. The museum has preserved some of the original works of the Antwerp Six. In one of the little cells dedicated to the individual geniuses you can find the most fascinating instances of Flemish design.
What enthralled me the most was a leather jacket. It was a double-breasted with asymmetrical lapels and a shifted roll line, a detail engineered by the Ann of Antwerp that now-a-days finds expression in some of the younger designers of Flemish origin. Hand treated leather that seems to be slicked and oiled after a dark, damp night. Soft, supple yet looking strong enough to bear everyday wear and tear. This jacket can narrate the story of its wearer and bears testimony to the new dishabille glamour that made Ann Demeulemeester defy the dictates of fashion.
Ann Demeulemeester is known to dress the woman who not only knows herself but also takes great pride in being her. Today her individualistic fashion label has conquered the hearts of many across the world. After the Japanese, the Koreans, the Americans and the native Europeans may be its now turn for the Indian women to recognize this unique sense of personal style." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Street has embraced Demeulemeester in its very own ways. Creating unique identites which are as special and exclusive as her aesthetics and sensibilities. This is a tribute to the Ann of Antwerp.