Ann Demeulemeester's work is often referred to as poetic. While skillfully merging the incongruous, whether it is light and shadow or traditional shape and asymmetry, the lauded Antwerp Six member managed to create a unique equilibrium between clashing styles later known as "Darkwear". Born in the Belgian city of Courtray, Demeulemeester later moved to Bruges, where she first studied art in a local school. After uncovering her growing passion for self-expression, the future-couturier developed an interest in fashion design and decided to attend Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, successfully enrolling in 1977 and graduating in 1981.

In 1985 Demeulemeester established the eponymous label in a union with her husband Patric Robyn. The following year, to present her work to a wider audience, she went on a joint trip to London alongside five other newcomer Belgian designers, with whom the prominent Antwerp Six collective was later formed. Since then, Demeulemeester's untraditional and somewhat antithetical outlook on fashion quickly gained her a following. Peculiarly enough, during her first years as a garment maker, Ann Demeulemeester did not separate womenswear and menswear.

Instead, her shows combined them both, which was quite ahead of her time. She later commented on that, saying: "Men and women live together and share the same things, why shouldn't they do it on the catwalk as well?" Demeulemeester's approach to design is genuinely idiosyncratic. In her work, she managed to reach balance and perfection, which was often the result of combining seemingly the opposites. While taking inspiration mostly from gothic punk and seldomly using colors other than black and white, Ann Demeulemeester managed to create a raw yet alluringly elegant image that changed fashion forever. Perhaps, what describes her best is her own words: "Black is not sad. Bright colors is what depresses me. They’re so empty. Black is poetic. How do you imagine a poet? In a bright yellow jacket? Probably not."

Written by Ivan Khokhlov


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