Sébastien Meunier’s spring-summer 2019 collection for Ann Demeulemeester could have been a stylishly executed ghost story. With sheer veils flowing down the hats of each model, whether in black or white, the collection had a mysterious, elusive, yet even romantic aura. And, in the end, once you take off the hats and lace gloves, there were clothes to wear everyday. Take that pale pink robe coat or one of those lovely, peasant shirts. Not speaking of the womenswear part, which was plenty of ethereal gowns that felt distinctly Demeulemeester. But then… do we really have to take off all that dramatic headwear? Meunier wanted to convey a sense of dreaminess in his line-up. Why not dress the way you dream? That’s a question to discuss.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Ann Demeulemeester certainly is one of the most poetic designers / labels, and Sébastien Meunier is fully aware of that. A poetry reference, in form of William Blake, could happen to be too literal. But, the result is just the right balance of the house references, poetic ‘way of dressing’ and Meunier’s personal romantic aesthetic. In adopting the British Romantic’s work for Demeulemeester, the designer composed a collection that was more than just clothes. Those were the emotions, as well. Having been most moved by Songs of Innocence and of Experience, he featured the book’s cover on a velvet-ribboned tank top worn with a velvet shirt and skinny, black pants. Loose sleeves, ‘undone’ shearling coats and tasselled belts were another details, noticeable in between the lines, of Sébastien’s smooth direction at the Belgian brand.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Sébastien Meunier‘s spring-summer 2018 collection for Ann Demeulemeester was a clear message: a romantic ode to Robert Mapplethorpe, the late New York-based photographer. While some designers resign from mood-boards and straight-forward references, Meunier decided to fully convey his respect for the artist. In fact, the forever elusive persona of Mapplethorpe has much to do with Demeulemeester’s house-codes and legacy. For instance, the New Yorker of the 70s and 80s had an intense love relationship with Patti Smith – a muse and long-time friend of the brand’s founder. That’s quite a connection. Then, the dark aesthetic of Robert’s work and his personal style. Probably, if you could pick the best Ann Demeulemeester kind of man, then the choice would be clear. The clothes say it all: loosely-fit black trousers; sheer tank-tops; robes with a poet-like feel. But also, crumpled white shirts and lots of charms and pendants. Although Meunier definitely took the softer image of Mapplethorpe (distant from leather kinkiness), the designer succeeded reaching his goal.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki (backdrop: Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs).
When Ann Demeulemeester stepped down from the role at her namesake brand in 2013, I wondered – how difficult will it be for any successor to continue her legacy, yet not fall into biting the archives? Sébastien Meunier had his ups and falls since he became the creative director at Demeulemeester. But his men’s autumn-winter 2017 is unconditionally the best to date.
Perhaps it’s the season, where he found the balance between his personal creative language and Ann’s style codes. It was one of the most sensual and beautiful collections I have ever seen for men – pure poesy, where everything flows and works together, from the textures to the colours. From delicate white shirting with lace to all-black equivalents, Meunier re-invented, consciously or not, the way we perceive a poet: eccentric, romantic, on the boundary between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. Even the fur-lined parka jackets would dress a modern-day Edgar Allan Poe or William Blake. Eventually, it was Ann who said those words about both, poets and her favourite colour: “Black is not sad. Bright colors are what depresses me. They’re so… empty. Black is poetic. How do you imagine a poet? In a bright yellow jacket? Probably not.”
In her work, Demeulemeester often used feathers and plume, whether in jewellery or vest-making. Meunier did nonchalant, big feather shawls and breath-taking hats, which looked so elegantly decadent that I’m just… speechless.
I AM RED WITH LOVE was the statement that perfectly captured the mood of Sébastien Meunier‘s spring-summer 2017 offering at Ann Demeulemeester. We’ve seen romantic guys at Haider Ackermann and Pigalle earlier in Paris, and Demeulemeester man is also utterly into poetic love. “Rebel in love,” the designer mused backstage. “Love is a colorful emotion for me. And we can say also I am black with love. But we blush and we become a bit red when we are in love, so there is all of that. I wanted to give something that was a bit shy—emotion, charming emotion.” Meunier feels like at home after a few seasons spent at Demeulemeester, and he uses Ann’s signatures with grace – light, satin shirts covered with layers of feather pendants and charms, military jackets in black, and sheer tank-tops with stitched, red-thread slogans. The chunky knits looked impressive, too, oozing with hearty-arty slouchiness.
Black, black and a bit of red. That’s what Sébastien Meunier did for Ann Demeulemeester this fall. So, in other words, slightly boring. Or even, very boring. I feel that after Ann left the house, the label gets monotonous with Meunier each season. It’s basially all about bringing back the black clothes from the archives and giving them something which is called “new life”. But is it really what Demeulemeester wanted after departuring? Having her archives being constantly “refreshed” in her Antwerp-based brand? There is a real lack of energy in these clothes for AW15 – they are not poetic as Ann used to make them. They are simply black! Oh. And white & red in few looks. The stripes are also from Ann’s archives, so don’t think they are the intention of Sébastien’s imagination. A loud yawn.
Sebastien Meunier, whose the second season at Ann Demeulemeester feels like a vocabulary of the house’s heritage, was shown yesterday at Paris Fashion Week. The clothes were black & white, mesh and romantic fabrics were seen. The models had those punk-ish hair, but mostly it all felt silent and ethereal. In other words, it feels like if Ann was still present in the house, but with lack of progress. Beacaues that’s metaphorically true- Sebastien uses old house codes and hits, just to make it all more “commercial” and too Demeulemeester. The collection is not bad- but it feels like if the new creative director didn’t really try that hard as he should to make this Belgian brand be loved and respected. Hope the next season will be better…