—Would you say that you get your ideas from the fabric first, and then expand to the design from there?
Sébastien: “It’s true that we always start to explore fabrics to choose the more charming fabrics, the more poetic ones that we can find. In general, it helps to start the story.”
Ann Demeulemeester SS18 Women
—In terms of the 2018 Spring/Summer collection, I thought that maybe it was photographs that you first gained inspiration from, and then expanded the ideas from there. Is that correct?
Sébastien: “It’s a double process. It’s in the meantime. Of course, ideas can come from pictures. For example, the last collection in the winter was about William Blake and it came from an image and the title of a book by William Blake. So by the image we got an emotion that we wanted to explore. And of course, meanwhile, we were looking at fabrics and we tried to find the same vibe. It’s a way to start. And then after, the story becomes stronger and stronger, step by step. It’s not like it’s immediately clear, much often you get someone, an artist, the work of an artist, who start with that small image and after, you think; What kind of garment? What kind of fabric? But it always starts with the fabric.”
Sébastien: “The spring/summer was about Robert Mapplethorpe & Patti Smith, but the winter was about William Blake.”
—I recognize Patti Smith as the queen of punk music, but in what ways are you inspired by music usually for your designs?
Sébastien: “The music is not the starting point. The music comes at the end, when the story is there and we have to express it in the best way, the mood of the collection. So, we generally work on that the week before the show because we have seen all the garments, we know what we want to express, and then we search the vibe or to balance in a different way, or to go straight to the point. It’s never with a song that I start, I finish with the song.”
—You were saying in another interview that you were taught about freedom and living with a story when you were working with Margiela, does that have anything to do with what you just said about music?
Sébastien: “The music is an extension of the story. It’s definitely in touch with the emotion. You know we are a romantic, poetic brand. We try to give a dream, a strong emotion and so the music has a major importance to take the emotion of the public. It’s really sought out to balance and to mix it well with the collection because you can put any music in the collection. Really the emotion will be so different. It’s not about putting good music, it’s just about finding the right emotion. Sometimes we use a singer that may differ from my personal favorite, but is the best representation of a certain emotion for the collection, that’s very crucial. It’s also a way to discover a new singer or a new emotion by this singer. For example, the summer Patti Smith collection, a Belgian band “Warhaus” performed during the show. I met them because they were asking for our garments for the concert. And at one point listening to their music, I noticed they were the right one for this collection to express what I wanted to present with to the public. But the process is also meeting people and speaking about it. It’s really a work day after day. Then we choose the right one.
—Have you read “Just Kids”, an autobiography by Patti Smith?
Sébastien: “Yes. Of course. I don’t know if you have seen it, but I was working on a trouser written with “02 Kids”. The collection is about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. She speaks about Mapplethorpe and their youthhood in the book. Mapplethorpe was the theme of the men’s collection, he expressed the romantic part of Mapplethorpe. And for Patti Smith, I have shown Patti Smith in white and black with the garment that she was wearing in the 70s with a crown of flowers. Mapplethorpe did a lot of pictures in this kind of garment and style in the 70s. I wanted to represent the period when she was working or when she was starting her career. That’s also why I wanted a young band to sing.”
“It was also a way to prepare a concert live with the show so it was really something nice and poetic and charming.”
—Are the people of this band young? What generation do they belong to?
Sébastien: “22-25 years old?”
—Are you inspired by youth culture sometimes?
Sébastien: “Not only, but yes. Of course. It always gives a lot of vibe and a lot of energy so of course.”
—One memorable part of the story in the book was when Smith and Mapplethorpe were in a relationship and it ends due to Mapplethorpe changing, realizing his gay sexuality. In the same way, I can feel an androgynous sense working together in your collection. Where you conscious of expressing this in your newest collection?
Sébastien: “It’s something that I always explore, the gender-less sexuality. It’s also one of the definitions of the brand from the beginning. Ann would always make the boys slightly softer and women stronger. I would say that I push the limit a bit more and I like to show the boys more feminine, and the girls more powerful and masculine. However because it’s also my own drive, I have to find my way to express the same thing. For me, Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe represent very well, this kind of mixture. First, Patti Smith and Mapplethorpe were still friends with Ann and her husband, and there’s a relationship with them that is very strong. But I would say that they were also trying a bit of everything to find their own character and own art too. They were really searching themselves in a strong way. When Mapplethorpe was taking a picture of her in a slightly masculine garment, she was kind of powerful, but also in a very fragile way. Mapplethorpe was wearing the same thing, the same shirt not on the waist, with some necklace. And yet his hair that was curly. I just felt kind of out-feminined, out-masculinized. After I went in a more masculine way later, there was also mixing genders together, the sexuality was not completely clear, and tried a bit of everything. That was really interesting for me to explore that in a collection of garment.”
—Ann was close to both Smith and Mapplethorpe, but do you try to express your ideas through her view or your own view?
Sébastien: “Both. In fact, what is interesting is that I’ve always been a huge admirer of Mapplethorpe about his work and his life. This is a common thing that I have with Ann. I don’t know, I’ve never met Mapplethorpe but I’ve loved his work for a very long time, deeply. It “was” a part of our lives, but he “is” still a part of our lives. There was a connection. I have my own vision of that could take the DNA of the brand also. It was just two things that were working together. It was easy.”
Ann-Demeulemeester FW18 Women
—Something you have in common with Ann is that you guys are both romantic. You were learning law before you got into fashion, but for me romanticism and law didn’t seem to have a relationship between the two. Is there a correlation?
Sébastien: “When I started the studies of law I was a young guy, and I was searching for what I wanted to do. I really liked to study law, it was very interesting. But at a point I was feeling that it was not to do as a job after. It was not for intellectual stuff, something like this. And this moment I was also very attracted to fashion. Hence I decided to enter into fashion school. Sometimes you have different interests in life, it’s not only one thing. And yeah, it’s two different things but it’s also nice to have different attractions for different subjects and different possibilities that you have, and to explore different things. It enrich your life more to try all the things.”
—One of the most distingished Japanese designer, Rei Kawakubo studied philosophy at school.It seems that Ann Demeulemeester is more, stories about Ann herself, but what about yours?
Sébastien: “I speak about myself. I don’t speak about Ann anymore. I use her DNA because this is the brand she created about herself so it’s very important to respect what she did, and it’s also because I love it. But of course when I do a collection it’s speaking about my feelings and when I choose a time it’s because at the moment, it’s really in my life. I speak about me but with a cause. I put step by step my cause slightly and softly, pushing the limits every seasonin various ways. But of course I don’t speak about her because I will not speak about her life today. She knows better than me, why it’s her life. I wouldn’t speak about something I don’t know. I speak about my part.”
—It’s important to speak and express about yourself instead of following trends, because then you can actually move other people.
Sébastien: “The idea is to be able to move people with this. You have to be very honest with yourself and to really give something from your heart. It’s not just garments. It’s really garment with a vibe, with a story. You have to really be what you are.”
Ann-Demeulemeester FW18 Men
photography(portrait) Satomi Yamauchi
interview Makoto Kikuchi
edit Ryoko Kuwahara
ヴェリジー＝ヴィラクブレー（フランス）出身。ESMODを卒業、翌年イエール国際モード＆写真フェスティバルのメンズ賞を受賞。Martin Margielaにてデザインの経験を積み、2010年よりAnn Demeulemeesterに入社。2013年より同ブランドのアーティスティック・ディレクターに就任。