Ann Verhelst (born 29 December 1959[1]), known professionally as Ann Demeulemeester, is a Belgian fashion designer whose label, Ann Demeulemeester, is mainly showcased at the annual Paris Fashion Week.[2] She is known as one of the Antwerp Six in the fashion industry.[2]

Ann Demeulemeester
Ann Verhelst

(1959-12-29) 29 December 1959 (age 64)
Waregem, Belgium
Alma materRoyal Academy of Fine Arts
Occupation(s)Fashion and houseware designer
Years active1985–present
Patrick Robyn
(m. 1985)

Early life edit

Ann Verhelst was born in Waregem in 1959[3] to Albert and Monique Verhelst-Pappijn,[4] and later lived in the city of Antwerp. The reason why she made the decision to change her real name "Verhelst" to "Demeulemeester" remains unknown. Initially, Verhelst showed no interest in fashion. She attended art school for three years, where she discovered her fascination with people and portraiture, which led her to begin thinking about clothing design.[5] From this, she went on to study fashion design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp from 1978 to 1981.[2] In 1986, Verhelst, along with fellow graduates from the Antwerp Royal Academy, decided to showcase her collection in London. Though, as she was pregnant at the time and unable to make the trip to London, she only displayed a selection of sunglasses.[6] This group of Belgian designers would soon be known as the 'Antwerp Six', a radical and distinctive Belgian group of designers of the 1980s.[2] This group of avant-garde designers are known for their deconstructivist styles of creating untraditional clothing lines.[2] Other notables from the group include Dries van Noten and Walter Van Beirendonck.[2]

Career edit

Beginnings edit

Verhelst graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1981.[7] A year after her graduation, she won the Gouden Spoel, a Belgian awarded prize to the year's most promising fashion designer, though the impact of the award in the industry was very limited.[8] Verhelst struggled to find a first job and began working as a freelance pattern maker, assisting fashion icon Martin Margiela , for an undisclosed Italian brand for a few years.[9]

Ann Demeulemeester edit

In 1985, Verhelst finally launched her own brand, Ann Demeulemeester-Verhelst, in collaboration with her husband, Patrick Robyn, who put an end to a burgeoning career as a photographer to devote himself to his wife's fashion label, assuming the role of a shadow creative director for the brand, an unofficial position that he has still been occupying to this days.[2][10]

In 1992, Dirk Van Saene self-publishes Dirk Van Saene’s Bambi, a photo-collaged comic that lampoons his fellow Antwerp designers with a special focus on Ann Verhelst, highlighting the tensions between Demeulemeester and the other designers in the Antwerp Six.[11]

In 1994, Ann Verhelst approached Belgian entrepreneur Anne Chapelle for help in building her brand, which, under her tenure, turned into a substantial global business,[12] debuting a menswear line in 1996[7] and opening the brand’s flagship store in Antwerp in 1999.[2] Finally, in 2005, Anne Chapelle acquired the company’s majority stake from Ann Verhelst. [13]

Verhelst worked with the artist Jim Dine, and draws inspiration from singer Patti Smith.[14] She worked on a clothing line inspired by Jackson Pollock.[2]

In November 2013, Verhelst announced she was leaving the fashion house with an handwritten exit letter.[2][15] Prior to her departure, Ann Verhelst choose herself the French designer Sébastien Meunier as her successor as artistic director of the brand. Sébastien Meunier had previously worked for 10 years with the Belgian fashion genius Martin Margiela before joining Ann Demeulemeester in 2010, officially for designing the house's men's collections while in reality being trained by Ann Verhelst and Patrick Robyn themselves to his future position of artistic director. Sébastien Meunier left the label in July 2020. [16]

Ann Demeulemeester by Serax edit

After leaving fashion, Verhelst attended porcelain master classes in England and France. In 2019, she launched Ann Demeulemeester Serax in collaboration with Belgian diffusion label Serax, a collection of affordable porcelain dinner services made in China, but also silverware, glasses and larger houseware, following the path of other famous fashion designers of the like of Inès de la Fressange, José Levy or Christian Lacroix.[17]

Ann Demeulemeester by Antonioli edit

After the Italian retailer Claudio Antonioli bought the company in 2020 [18] and after the resignation of Sébastien Meunier,[19] Ann Verhelst announced, in September 2021, her return to the Ann Demeulemeester label,[20] therefore forever linking her name and legacy to Claudio Antonioli, whose name is mainly associated with the rise of luxury streetwear. That same month, the brand's Antwerp flagship store reopened after a year of renovation,[21] now being mostly focused on the Ann Demeulemeester by Serax homeware and furnitures collections rather than on the fashion collections, confirming the brand's smart transition from a "Fashion House" to a "Lifestyle Brand".[22]

In the meantime, Belgian national newspaper De Tijd revealed that 42 out of the 48 Antwerp-based employees of Ann Demeulemeester had been dismissed, despite most of them have been working for the label for over 3 decades and were hired by Ann Verhelst herself. The article also revealed that the company itself was relocated to Milan,[23] definitively cutting the fashion house from its historical Flemish roots. In an exclusive interview granted to journalist Jesse Brouns, Ann Verhelst, Patrick Robyn and Claudio Antonioli confirmed the relocation of the Belgian brand to Italy, the later stating that "Milan [compared to Antwerp] is a fashion city. That made recruiting a new team of 25 people easier."[24]

Claudio Antonioli enrolled designer Nina Maria Nitsche as "ghost" creative director of the brand, another Maison Margiela alumni, after her short stances at both Vetements[25] and Kering's own Brioni.[26]

The brand's first fashion show under Antonioli era, which took place in October 2021 in Paris and relied mostly on denim, received mixed reviews from the international press.[27][28][29] As for the second outing of Claudio Antonioli for the brand, in March 2022, Vogue described it, in a notably harsh review, as if "The models all looked like they were heading to a meeting with their bank managers to declare themselves bankrupt".[30]

For Sanremo Music Festival 2022, Ann Demeulemeester dressed Italian musician Mahmood,[31] who joins the list of the brand's legends alongside Patti Smith and PJ Harvey.

In December 2022, to the industry’s surprise, Claudio Antonioli named the social-media savvy Ludovic de Saint-Sernin as creative director of Ann Demeulemeester, just to part ways with him less than 6 months later and after one single collection.[32] In June 2023, Antonioli then appoints as the brand’s fourth creative director in less than 3 years, Stefano Gallici, a former intern at Haider Ackermann and one-half of a duo of Italian DJs called the Nausea Twins.[33][34]

In September 2023, Ann Verhelst and Claudio Antonioli discreetly released an exclusive fragrance designed by Italian nose, Nicola Bianchi. [35] [36]

At the end of Italian fiscal year 2022, Ann Demeulemeester’s parent company, AD Milano S.R.L., reported a net loss of -10.555.311,00 euros for a total turnover of only 9.166.499,00 euros.[37]

Personal life edit

Kesselhof castle

Verhelst married photographer Patrick Robyn in 1985.[38][2] The couple used to live in the outskirts of Antwerp in the famous Maison Guiette, the only house in Belgium designed by Le Corbusier. Ann Verhelst has since moved to Kesselhof manor,[39] a 19th-century Italian rococo revival villa situated in the village of Kessel, that she bought from Baroness Diane Caroline Van Zuylen Van Nyevel.[40] In 2021, Ann Verhelst acquired the restaurant Euterpia[41] in Antwerp’s historical district of Zurenborg, shortly after the previous owner, Marc Tombeur, died from Covid. [42]

Awards edit

  • 1982 Golden Spindle Award, Belgium

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester is part of the BoF 500". The Business of Fashion. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Socha, Miles (21 November 2013). "Ann Demeulemeester Exits Fashion". WWD. Retrieved 21 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester". Fashion Model Directory. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  4. ^ Derammelaere, Dolf (Winter 2000). "Ten huize van..." Waregemse Gidsenkring (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 18 February 2022. Retrieved 29 December 2019 – via Waregem City Archives.
  5. ^ Susannah Frankel (2002). "Ann Demeulemeester" (PDF). Dazed & Confused. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2010.
  6. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester, la regina dell'estetica rock". MF Fashion. 8 January 2022. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  7. ^ a b Katherine Betts (April 1997). "Ann of Antwerp" (PDF). Vogue USA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 December 2010.
  8. ^ "Ann Verhelst stapt uit eigen modehuis". HLN. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester, la regina dell'estetica rock". MF Fashion. 8 January 2022. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  10. ^ "BIOGRAPHY | Ann Demeulemeester". Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  11. ^ "A Timeline of Fashion's Belgian Takeover". The Cut. 17 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  12. ^ "Anne Chapelle is part of the BoF 500". Business of Fashion. 22 May 2023. Retrieved 22 May 2023.
  13. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester passe sous pavillon italien". L’Echo. 22 May 2023. Retrieved 22 May 2023.
  14. ^ Holston, Fred. "Take a Drag or Two". Patti Smith + Ann Demeulemeester. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  15. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester to leave eponymous fashion house". Telegraph. November 2013.
  16. ^ "Sébastien Meunier Exits Ann Demeulemeester". WWD. 2 July 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  17. ^ Stoppard, Lou (21 August 2019). "Ann Demeulemeester Doesn't Miss Fashion at All. She Has Other Plans". The New York Times.
  18. ^ "Sébastien Meunier Exits Ann Demeulemeester". WWD. 2 July 2020. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  19. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester's 'New Beginning' Under Italian Ownership". WWD. 20 March 2021. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  20. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester returns to namesake label ahead of Antwerp flagship reopening". Fashion United. 31 August 2021. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  21. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester Is Happy as Antwerp Flagship Reopens". WWD. 2 September 2021. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  22. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester to Reopen Antwerp Flagship". WWD. 28 August 2021. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  23. ^ "Productie van modelabel Ann Demeulemeester verhuist naar Italië". De Tijd. 27 August 2020. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  24. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester na 8 jaar back in Fashion". De Tijd. 28 August 2021. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  25. ^ "Vetements has recruited former Margiela designer Nina Nitsche". Hero Magazine. 29 September 2016. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  26. ^ "Brioni, Nina-Maria Nitsche Part Ways". WWD. 27 July 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  27. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester Spring 2022 Reay-to-wear". Vogue Runway. 3 October 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  28. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester returns, sort of". Fashion Network. 4 October 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  29. ^ "Da Lanvin a Givenchy show grandiosi, ma collezioni in cerca d'autore". Il Sole 24 Ore. 4 October 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  30. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester Review". 5 March 2022. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  31. ^ "Mahmood e Blanco, due stelle fashion vincono Sanremo". MF Fashion. 6 February 2022. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  32. ^ "Ludovic de Saint Sernin Exits Ann Demeulemeester". Business of Fashion. 20 May 2023. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  33. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester Names Stefano Gallici Its New Creative Director". 1 June 2023. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  34. ^ "Nausea Twins". Instagram. 1 June 2023. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  35. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester svela il suo primo profumo". 7 September 2023. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  36. ^ "Ann Demeulemeester Put Her Heart, Instincts Into First Perfume". 7 September 2023. Retrieved 7 September 2023.
  37. ^ "Dati Della Società – AD Milano S.R.L." Ufficio Camerale. 2023. Retrieved 14 November 2023.
  38. ^ "Kindred Spirits" (PDF). Fashion Rocks. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 April 2019. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  39. ^ "Kasteel Kesselhof". 29 March 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  40. ^ "Kessel neemt afscheid van barones". Gazet Van Antwerpen. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2007.
  41. ^ "Euterpia". Tripadvisor. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
  42. ^ "Antwerps restaurant Euterpia, de favoriet van Steven Spielberg en Hugo Claus, sluit na 46 jaar de deuren". Retrieved 3 November 2021.

External links edit

  Media related to Ann Demeulemeester at Wikimedia Commons