Cher’s arrival at the dispossessed parking garage turned event venue for the Ann Demeulemeester show was a happening all its own. A ripple of applause ran through the cavernous industrial space, and even front-row editors rose from their seats to snap a picture. The brouhaha was even bigger after the show.
What happened in between was a restrained study of light and dark (mostly dark), from a studio that counts Martin Margiela alums among its number. The tailoring was masterful: oversized jackets with dropped lapels paired with ample, flowing trousers; long-sleeve, fitted crewneck tops serving as an understated foil for fishtail skirts. Staccato-succinct show notes specified that white cotton shirts—“the absolute icon of the brand”—had “unfolded in other expressions and attitudes,” which meant that some had grown into fitted, floor-length dresses, and others were caught, as if flash frozen, beneath a whisper-thin layer of fine knit in front, their backs cinched by a thin strap or two. The same mantra returned again and again in black or white with subtle plays on texture. The glossy black leather slip dresses with yawning backs looked commercial enough, but the poetry was AWOL.
For decades now, the Ann Demeulemeester base has been hooked on a very specific register of weeping willow chic. Despite the occasional tendril floating from a buttonhole, back, or belt—or, inexplicably, rings—that aesthetic seems to have been diluted with the company’s relocation, under new stewardship by Claudio Antonioli, from Antwerp to Milan. Either the studio was playing it safe in uncertain times—in which case they had good company this season—or this outing was some sort of sartorial palate cleanser, a play for time, a prelude to renewed relevancy. Since one of spring’s biggest buzzwords has been optimism, let’s just hope for the latter.