Ann Demeulemeester Shares the Stories Behind the Looks in Her Retrospective at Pitti Uomo

Just what her involvement is has been the subject of much speculation. “I don’t design the clothes anymore, I don’t work with them every day,” Demeulemeester clarified. “[Like] children, you have to let them go and you have to let them be free to find their way. I’m there, I’m not there.” What it comes down to is that Demeulemeester is in the mix, working on selected special projects that catch her fancy, like the redesign of the Antwerp store, a possible perfume launch, and this exhibition. “There is a mutual respect between Antonioli and me…he knows the DNA of the brand very well, and he wanted to invest and to work on the future of this brand. I could feel that he had sincere intentions and I decided to support this new beginning because I was happy that there was a new future for the brand. I knew that I couldn’t do it myself anymore or start again—and I don’t want to draw trousers and jackets again because I have to continue my evolution.”

Demeulemeester is one of two female designers who were members of the Antwerp Six. Graduates of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, they caused a stir when they brought their designs to London by van in 1986. Their individualistic, sometimes esoteric designs earned them the label deconstructivists. Goth was another description Demeulemeester was assigned. Both are terms she rejects. “I never understood that [designation] so well, because I don’t deconstruct, I construct, but I construct not in a classical way,” the designer said on a call. “The word construct is associated with something rigid, which is not always the case. You can also construct something that is fluid. By deconstructing, maybe they want to say it’s not this rigid, straight thing anymore; it has become more nonchalant or more vivid or more lived in, something like that.”

Pragmatism and poetry meet in Demeulemeester’s designs. “The way I worked, every collection was like a step in a long evolution,” she explained. “I’m sure some collections were better, some were maybe less to my liking, but they were an experiment and each collection had its purpose and its experience. I’m sure that my best collections wouldn’t have existed if the ones before wouldn’t have been there.”

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