Stefano Gallici’s Ann Demeulemeester Challenge

PARIS — “Everybody has their idea of what Ann Demeulemeester stands for as a brand,” says Stefano Gallici, whose sophomore collection for the house that Ann built will be revealed Saturday night at Espace des Blancs Manteaux. “It is usually a narrow misconception anchored to a view that wipes away the inevitable and charming complexities of Ann’s vision. There is more to this house than the stompy boots, the dangling straps and even the slouchy tailoring, or the black, even though they are still here.”

“I am trying to offer my unfiltered point of view,” he adds.

With a directness that reads as assured rather than arrogant, Gallici — a lanky beau with the curly mane of a faun, the skinny frame of a rocker and the melancholic gaze of a poet — gets right at the problem that haunts houses like Demeulemeester — and Helmut Lang, for that matter — who suddenly lose their founder mid-career: the risk of turning what was a vision into a set of soulless, commercial codes.

After Ann left her namesake brand in 2013, its identity drifted here and there as its fortunes waned. In 2020, Italian retail guru Claudio Antonioli came to the rescue, acquiring the brand through his Milan-based Dreamers Factory incubator. For a few seasons, he released collections designed by a studio team that were heavy on slouchy tailoring. Then came the short-lived tenure of Ludovic de Saint Sernin, who, despite bringing new energy to the turnaround efforts with a punchier look, exited the brand last May after a single season amid disagreement with management.

In the spring of 2023, Antonioli made the bold move of promoting Gallici, who was already part of the studio team and trained at the Università Iuav di Venezia, Italy’s most progressive fashion school, to the role of creative director. “Stefano, despite being young, was an easy choice for me: for the work ethic, for the passion he nurtures for the brand and, not least, for his genuine interest in the project as an exploration of style, not as an exercise in self promotion,” Antonioli explains.

Ann Demeulemeester Autumn/Winter 2024.
Ann Demeulemeester Autumn/Winter 2024.
Ann Demeulemeester Autumn/Winter 2024.
Ann Demeulemeester Autumn/Winter 2024.

Gallici has a stronger connection to Ann’s legacy than his predecessor, but he is adamant that he’s not trying to be a copycat, replicating the archive ad nauseam. His gaze is drawn towards specific moments from the brand’s past in which sharpness, even sexiness, came to the fore; the barbaric, wild tones that emerged in certain collections. There is also a subterranean vibe to what Gallici does that is entirely his own: rooted in music the way Ann’s work was rooted in poetry.

At Christmas, Gallici sent out vinyl LPs with the soundtrack to his first show. For tomorrow’s presentation he is collaborating with composer and sound experimenter Neuf Voix, who will perform live. “Sound is an integral part of my vision, and the whole mindscape I aim at building for Ann,” he says.

The new collection explores fragility and strength with a kind of pagan rawness and a renewed colour palette that includes deep reds and pale flesh tones. The line up features greatcoats inspired by Joseph Beuys’, raw edged leather aprons and long pleated skirts, with tufty sheepskin and shaggy knit collars adding a wild touch. There are also some negligé and lingerie-like slip dresses which, mixed with harder pieces, look unexpected and fresh.

“I see the archive as a forest in which to enter and get lost, picking things up as I go along,” muses Gallici. “It is a journey of discovery as much as it is one of self discovery.”

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