The Nipple Isn’t Freed. Ann Demeulemeester AW23

Ludovic De Saint Sernin as the creative director at Ann Demeulemeester: this sentence still surprises. The Antwerp-based brand – and its founder – affiliate with a certain depth, as evocative and raw as Patti Smith’s poetry and music; it’s about a humble crisp white shirt so well-tailored it will serve you for years; her brand used to be the epitome of sensuality that was mysterious, fluid and in a way ephemeral, blink-and-you-will-miss-it. Ludovic De Saint Sernin, meanwhile, judging on his Parisian namesake label of hyper-sexualizing clothing, isn’t really about those elusive notions. His debut collection for the Belgian house seemed to check all the boxes of the preconceived image Demeulemeester has in the mind of general public: long floor-sweeping lenghts, boy-ish black suits, a dark colour palette with drops of maroon. What certainly felt like an ambiguous idea was De Saint Sernin’s choice of covering female models’ breasts. With an exaggerately big feather (another Demeulemeester code), with a shearling capelet, or with hands. The brand’s founder, who through clothes celebrated women’s liberation and their bodies, would never censor her models. Probably, De Saint Sernin’s idea sprang from Instagram’s and TikTok’s disturbing, AI-generated anti-nipple policy (being applied to women only – because men’s nipples appear to be absolutely acceptable, and ironically, De Saint Sernin didn’t cover them in his menswear looks…), which is a topic for a whole another post. And here’s the problem: Ann Demeulemeester, the designer, wouldn’t seek approval from such thing as Instagram, while Ludovic De Saint Sernin’s vision of sexuality is conceived for that specific platform. The autumn-winter 2023 clothes weren’t bad – they might even sell well – but they weren’t an innovative take on Demeulemeester’s design legacy. Except for a couple of Ludovic-look-a-like models (this designer has a certain level of heavy narcissism about him), you wouldn’t be able to distinguish this line-up from what the brand had in offer for the past couple of studio-designed seasons.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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