'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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there