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. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Daniel Lee and his Bottega Veneta are definitely in a good mood, and look forward to the the joyful re-emergence that might finally arrive this summer-slash-autumn. The pre-fall 2021 outing that (Instagram-less) brand calls “Wardrobe 02” is a bold line-up of essentials sprinkled with a few of the so-odd-it’s-good whimsies that will soon become collector’s items. Yes, the company will be selling the roller skates that Oumi Janta and Malick Bodian model in these pictures. It’s also a branding exercise, with a look book lineup that includes, in addition to the roller skaters, the musicians Skepta, Arca and Neneh Cherry; the dancer Roberto Bolle; artist Mark Leckey; and Central Saint Martins B.A. fashion course leader Sarah Gresty, a friend of Lee’s from his school days. “It’s people who we aspire to see in the clothes,” he told Vogue. “And there’s big diversity, from music, film, dance, theater, art, skateboarding.” As that roster suggests, and as previous Lee runways have told us, there’s nothing conservative about Bottega Veneta essentials. For Lee and his team, clothing is performance. That’s clear from a look that’s feathered in aqua blue plumes from its high neckline to its pants hem, from an intricately beaded knit BV-green evening dress, and from a giant leather belt that twists around the torso like a helix. But it also goes for straight-world-passing tailoring. The tweed suits are boardroom safe, but they’re definitely not boring. “They’re generic in a way. I like this idea of quite banal everyday clothes” Lee said. “But when you see the fabrics in real life there’s always more to [them]: the tweeds that stretch, the beautiful fabric development, the garments that are constructed without linings. There’s a lot of love and attention in the details, and that we really get off on, honestly.” What you can’t miss is the sense of fun Lee and company are having. His feathery party pants are a guaranteed good time and the clearest signal yet that post-pandemic fashion is going to roar indeed. “The world needs fun now. We want to be provoked,” Lee concluded.