WORDS Philip Livchitz
Before presenting the Ann Deumeulemeester AW18 collection, the fashion house’s creative director, Sébastien Meunier took to social media through his Instagram account. He posted a picture of the cover of William Blake’s poem compilation from the later 18th century - ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience showing the Two Contrary States of the Human’. It became evident Meunier had something special planned for the second day of Paris Fashion Week Men’s.
Staying true to Blake’s poem compilation, Ann Demeulemeester’s AW18 collection featured modern takes on classic 18th century pieces – restructured layered great coats with deep oversized cuffs, long-cuffed hunter shirts with black polished knee-high boots and big belt buckles as well as shin-cropped breeches with fine stitch and button details. The colours ranged from deep navy to purple, aquamarine and imperial purple, giving the collection a noble and distinguished look. Paying homage to Blake’s pairing of his poems with his own illustrations, Meunier infused graphic shirts with the words ‘innocence’ and ‘experience’ as well as Blake’s cover of ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’.
The AW18 collection conveyed Meunier’s interpretation of Blake’s work to the audience through his clever storytelling ability. Concepts of ‘innocence’ and ‘experience’ were presented through the juxtaposition of vivid and lighter features against darker silhouettes. The more colourful looks presented the naïve and childlike playfulness, whilst the darker colours and bare skin represented the experience of sexual awakening, lust and death of innocence.
And herein lies the brilliance of Meunier’s work – he has a unique ability to transpire works of previous world-known artists into new complete wholes, whilst remaining true to the original ideas conveyed by those artists. In the same vein as Ann Demeulemeester’s SS18 collection skillfully reflected Robert Mapplethorpe’s extensive body of work in each of the looks presented, the AW18 collection contained symbolism and direct references to Blake’s works throughout the show. It is of little wonder Ann Demeulemeester’s men’s collections have become some of the most anticipated in Paris.