'Black is perfect, you can fill it with any emotion'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Ann Demeulemeester's designs are modern, minimal and monochrome. Harriet Walker talks to the queen of darkness

Ann Demeulemeester's influence is evident in every pair of wide-leg, drop-from-the-hip trousers on the high street, every starched and mannish white shirt, every boxy blazer and androgynous model.

With a return to Nineties grunge tailoring on the cards, her signature ascetism is more relevant than ever.

But her eponymous label isn't enjoying a revival so much as celebrating its endurance; Demeulemeester's clothes have a cult following of devoted fans, built up over the 23 years since she first showed at London Fashion Week, one of the so-called Antwerp Six, alongside Dries van Noten and Walter van Beirendonck.

Demeulemeester, 51, offers a practical code for modern dressing, a range of high-end staples and classics rendered in her own idiosyncratic and luxurious tastes – and available now as a more accessible capsule collection for online emporium thecorner.com.

"The purpose of it is to offer some pieces that are typical and minimalist," she explains. "Just to have some good pieces in your wardrobe that hopefully you would wear for a long time."

The collection contains some of Demeulemeester's "hall of fame" items: a precisely cut, long-line leather waistcoat; tapering black trousers in her preferred peg cut; a cashmere black tank spattered with white flecks; and capacious and stylishly saggy black leather shoulder bag. All pieces are what Demeulemeester has become known for, along with her crisply tailored shirts, flowing long skirts and stompy leather boots, and which are now being emulated by newcomers such as Alexander Wang and Simone Rocha. "They're classic minimal pieces," she says of the purist look that she has made her own. "I've made this stuff for 20 years every day – it's my universe."

It's a universe that is regularly slapped with the "Gothic" sticker, thanks to the designer's preoccupation with a monochrome palette. "For me, Gothic is something from my youth, when I had a heavy metal phase," she laughs. "It's too easy to say that orange is happy and black is sad. To me, black is perfect. You can fill it with the emotion you want to express. My work has always been about authentic feeling, and I think we live in a time where we need that."

Demeulemeester built the foundation for her brand during times almost as straitened as these. She turned to fashion only after an interest in portraiture led her to concentrate on the personality as expressed through clothing, and to study at Antwerp's Royal Academy. After she brought her first collection to London, it was bought in its entirety by Barneys and Demeulemeester's fusion of minimalism, menswear and modernised Victoriana entered the mainstream.

"I think it was an advantage that people discovered at the same time six new designers from a country nobody had heard of," she shrugs. "I tried to believe that if I was doing something that was not there, then I had a chance. I made things that I would love to wear – it was the only way I could do it, otherwise I was not interested."

Demeulemeester's single-mindedness borders on intransigence, but it is born of a passion for her aesthetic. For many years, she was her own fit model, and works with her husband, photographer Patrick Robyn, to create the menswear range that she launched in 1996. The couple have been together since their late teens.

"I can make 10 jackets of the same colour, same two pockets and same length, that will look like 10 completely different jackets when you put them on," she says. "It's about the way they are cut – it makes them look and feel completely different, and move differently, and that's a never-ending study. People who wear my clothes will know exactly what I mean."

Ann Demeulemeester for The Corner is available now. thecorner.com

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

    Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

    £8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

    Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

    Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

    Day In a Page

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border