Haider Ackermann: The Draped Crusader

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Colombian designer Haider Ackermann is no newcomer to the fashion scene, but his perfectly pintucked and elegantly elongating clothes are finally beginning to attract the attention they deserve, says Susannah Frankel

It is always gratifying when a designer who has quietly, and without compromise, upheld an aesthetic for years takes his place in the limelight.

So it is with Haider Ackermann who first showed at the Paris collections 10 years ago now and who has built up a loyal following with the most sartorially forward thinking. Now, though, his runway presentations and the highly singular vision they represent are one of the high points of the French fashion season across the board.

Still – and relatively speaking – Ackermann works against the mainstream. His collections comprise a stately procession of models, each wearing their own individual, intricately worked and impeccably realised style. Colour sings. The drape of his fabrics is among the finest in the industry. Leather is moulded, tooled and washed until it is as delicate as tissue paper. There are no money-spinning bags or other trinkets to detract from the story that is, and always has been, the clothes.

There is little straightforward about Ackermann's designs. In fact, they are often so complex that when, for example, in March 2011, Lady Gaga appeared on the front cover of American Vogue wearing Haider Ackermann, the hapless fashion editor responsible for styling her look called the designer to ask for his personal help dressing her. No "how many fashion editors does it take..." jokes called for, please. Oh, and the fact that Ackermann even ended up in that position in the first place is quite a coup. The prime cover spot of any glossy magazine worth its credentials is predominantly the preserve of big-brand advertisers. Haider Ackermann, which is independently owned, doesn't have the budget for that.

Ackermann was born in Santa Fe de Bogotá in Colombia and adopted by French parents. His father, a cartographer, travelled across Africa with his young son and a brother and sister, also adopted. Ackermann remembers Ethiopian women draped in bubu. "When you're a child, everything seems so much more big and tall and they have these very skeletal figures and a certain fragility. I still project those women." Certainly, a sense of proportion reminiscent also of Giacometti's sculpture is part of the picture. In Algeria, Ackermann saw "mysterious women hidden behind metres of fabric, slippering through the medina of Oran", and enveloping the female form more than exposing it continues to be important to him.

Aged 12, the designer moved with his family to The Netherlands, and then on to Antwerp where he furthered his education at the Academie des Beaux-Arts, alma mater to Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten to name just three. Raf Simons, the newly appointed design director at Christian Dior (Ackermann was rumoured to be in line for that position too, incidentally), didn't study at the celebrated fashion school in that city but he was at the epicentre of its creative scene while Ackermann was a student. "He [Haider] never graduated because he couldn't finish his collections. If he had to do five silhouettes, he would only do three. But they were the best," Simons has said. In Belgium, Ackermann learned that it was important to consider the comfort and dignity of any future devotees. "There is so much respect for the woman who will ultimately wear the clothes in the Belgian school and the intention is always not to make decoration out of them," is how he puts it. "It's about the woman first and foremost. The clothes should only reflect what she is."

After college Ackermann spent a short time as an intern at John Galliano before setting up his own label. So naïve was he that when he debuted on the catwalk he neglected to invite any buyers. Still, the style press were in attendance and knew a good thing when they saw it and it wasn't long before his designs were sold in Colette in Paris, Corso Como in Milan and Louis in Antwerp. Since then, his company has grown, organically and in a perfectly well-judged manner. Ackermann is no fool and has never claimed to be averse to working for a label other than his own. As well as being name-checked for Dior, he was thought to be the most natural successor to the aforementioned Margiela when he retired in 2009. For now, though, his prime concern is his signature line. That Ackermann has friends in high places is a given. Karl Lagerfeld for one endorses his talent. In 2010, the Chanel creative director told press that the younger designer would be his preferred successor as and when the time comes. Praise indeed.

Perhaps more importantly still, the actor Tilda Swinton loves Haider Ackermann. No one wears his preternaturally long, lean and covered silhouette quite so imposingly. A little over a year ago she talked to her friend for Interview magazine. "I just feel this satisfaction that what seemed so clear and inevitable to everyone around you for so long – that people would one day be open to your work – is finally taking place," she said. "You must feel that there's such a Haider-shaped space that you're filling now for people beyond the few of us who'd been invited into your world before..."

That Haider Ackermann-shaped space is a million miles away from fast fashion and the endless invention and reinvention of trends. Instead it is opulent, modest, majestic even and a deliberately slow burner... The more closely you look, the more lovely it all seems. It is precious, then, in the best possible sense of the word.

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballLive: Latest news from Champions League draw
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
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

    Scrum Master (Agile, Java, team recruitment)

    £45000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Scrum M...

    Junior Asset Manager

    £25000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Junior As...

    Oracle Developer/IT Analyst

    £35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

    SEN Tutor- Speech and Language Specialist part time

    £80 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?