Ann Demeulemeester kept her most valuable asset, her name, even though she quietly left her labels in 2013. Demeulemeester didn’t abandon the key, unlike designers Jil Sander and Helmut Lang, Calvin Klein, Halston, Roland Mouret (until he purchased it back), Calvin Klein, Halston, and Thierry Mugler.
Demeulemeester wanted to get rid of fashion’s relentless pace, but the brand’s heritage was preserved when Anne Chappelle, Belgium’s most powerful businesswoman and fashion designer, purchased the brand for an undisclosed amount. Anne also owns the Haider Ackermann Label. Claudio Antonioli is an Italian fashion entrepreneur and founder of the New Guards Group’s namesake boutiques in Milan, Lugano and Milan. He sold the Demeulemeester company to Chappelle last year. Antonioli was a long-time stockist of the brand and has supported Demeulemeester’s design aesthetic from the beginning.
Antonioli has pledged to bring back the brand to its glory days. However, the focus will be on luxury. The brand’s dark and moody tailoring was sold through the most prestigious boutiques in the world. With its high ceilings, minimalist collections, and botanical garden, the flagship store of the company in Antwerp is still a popular destination for fashion enthusiasts. Patrick Robyn, Demeulemeester’s husband, renovated the premises to reflect the brand’s code of conduct. The dark wood floors are echoed in the walls and white plastered walls.
Fashion and Lifestyle
Demeulemeester is exhibiting her new passion for homeware and lighting, which she created in collaboration with Serax (a Belgian interior design company). The ground floor features beautiful ceramicware and hand-blown glassware. These items are a refreshing change from the usual handbags and small leather goods which are supposed to drive sales.
Many were surprised to learn that Demeulemeester confirmed her return last week. She will not be the creative director, but she will oversee special projects such as the creation of the first house perfume. In a way Chapelle’s business could not, the quiet approval of having the founder involved will allow the brand to thrive.
Antonioli, who acquired the brand, has been busy in the background, moving the company’s design department to Italy. This will allow for more efficient and streamlined production. Business of Fashion reports that Oliver Rizzo and Willy Vanderperre, a stylist and photographer well-known for their Raf Sins collaborations, will be in charge of artistic direction. New boutiques will open in New York City, Tokyo, London, and Milan. This is the first sign that Antonioli has ambitious expansion plans and reduced its dependence on wholesale. It’s a strategy many luxury brands embrace to preserve quality and exclusive distribution.
Ann Demeulemeester’s spring-summer 2022 collection will be presented in Paris on October 3.