Ann Demeulemeester has long reigned as the Belgian queen of bewitchingly dark shades. Think midnight black, deep purples, rich chocolates. But to heighten the drama still more, these gothic shades are contrasted with splashes of stark white. For her latest spring/summer collection, she takes this the whole way. An entirely white collection paraded down the Paris Spring 2011 runway. Then just as the audience were applauding thinking the show was over, she surprised everyone when it started up again with a black version of each garment. Dramatic indeed.
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In her white ensembles Demeulemeester presents a vision both striking and unique. Head to toe white is not common for menswear, but as with all her designs, she’s made it look natural and effortless. Gone are her usual spectral layers; her bundled, dishevelled drapery. These clothes are pared back and minimalist, less bohemian prince, more fencing student. Clean lines and shiny metal appliqués contribute to the clinical feel. The garments are tight fitting, where usually her loose shirts are nonchalantly tossed over bare chests.
So this collection is an intriguing development from her typical style. Here we see Demeulemeester’s versatility: her collections have run since 1987, but each season they look fresh and original. She brings her same signature elements, like the contrast of black and white, and skilfully reinvents them. When she was at fashion school, her conservative teacher was horrified at the prospect of black and white in the same outfit. “That was my big discussion with her” Demeulemeester laughingly told The New York Times. “She was like ‘Ann, you can’t use white. It’s not chic. Use off-white’…So I had a big fight with her.”
That is Demeulemeester in a nutshell: individual, iconoclastic and disregarding of convention. Her new collection is a perfect demonstration.