Haider Ackermann took Joyce.com on a spiritual and visual journey, through his aura, collections and music tastes.
Haider Ackermann’s nomadic spirit is deeply rooted in his past. Born in Bogotá, Colombia, he was adopted by a French Alsatian family. He spent his childhood travelling with his family across Africa before settling in the Netherlands. As he reached adolescence, he was becoming enamoured by the works of Yves Saint Laurent, so he enrolled himself in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp to study fashion. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he got expelled from the Academy for being “too perfectionistic to finish his assignments”. With some internship experience at Dior with John Galliano under his belt, Ackermann created his own label and made his debut women’s collection in 2001 at Paris Fashion Week.
“I’ve always travelled and loved travelling, but the inspiration is never shown in the clothes in the first degree. When I travel to say India, I don't’ bring a sari back. I never take pictures, just memorise things and they will then naturally translate to the collection. What will disappear will disappear, all very vague.”
Vagueness has always been the allure of Haider Ackermann. The beauty of his sensibility lies in the unknown, the mysterious. He elaborates:
“It’s like going to a museum and looking at a painting, I prefer not to know everything about it,
I want to have my own perception of it.
Let people dream!”
Hence his clothes are designed for the discreet, quiet but strong women, who yearn for an adventure, freedom and to be liberated, much like his close friend, the Oscar winning actress and long term collaborator, Tilda Swinton.
“Tilda and I have a beautiful friendship. We met 10 years ago and started to collaborate together. We share the same thoughts and we are there for each other, she was there at the show yesterday. She challenges me. When we were working for her red carpet look, I wanted to be safe but she said, ‘No, let’s go for it.’ She’s a faithful and loyal friend.”
And this loyalty extends to his entire team. Ackermann always works with the same hair stylist, makeup artist and models. The show is assigned for the 10:30am slot, although everyone is rather jaded, there’s never any drama backstage because there’s a mutual understanding and trust amongst the team. As for the audience, there’s always an undercurrent of anticipation luring in the dimly lit venue. This intense feeling would come to an abrupt end the moment when the music starts playing. It immediately grabs your attention, your thoughts, your senses and before all these come to your consciousness, the girls who are draped, wrapped and sculpted in beautiful fabrics that are binding, floating and tumbling down appear serenely on the catwalk. By now, a few tears will have been shed with such indescribable emotions.
“It always starts with the music. Music creates a certain mood, atmosphere and tells you something about myself. Music has to have cinematography.”
Ackermann’s magic first sent shock waves amongst editors and buyers back in the beginning of the millennium. He then got introduced to Anne Chapelle, the investor behind BVBA 32 (the then parent company of both Haider Ackermann and Ann Demeulemeester, the two brands have now parted and became two independent firms,) who has been his long term supporter and close friend. This then lead to speculation of the leading fashion houses serenading him to fill the roles of creative director, including Christian Dior and Maison Martin Margiela. Karl Lagerfeld also named Ackermann as his ideal successor at Chanel. He responded modestly to these praises:
“Of course it’s an honour and it’s beautiful to know that people think of you in those terms. But my sense and sensibility doesn’t fit every house. I respect the coding of the houses and it doesn’t interest me just to sign up for a few years then do something else.”
His desirability keeps surging since he turned down all these opportunities.
As if to underline this independence gene, he recently ventured into menswear with great success. Without any peripheral facilities such as twitter, instagram or using any of the self-serving digital platforms, he was able to launch and deliver – and compliment his consistently beautiful and poetic clothes.
“My private life is not that interesting. I just want to communicate with my défilé. I like reading though I barely have time for it. Let me have a cosy dinner with my friends, leave me alone. Let me dream. The day when I can’t dream anymore, that’ll be the day when everything falls apart.”