Last century’s fashion landscape was mostly shaped by such prominent figures as Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Cristobal Balenciaga or Coco Chanel, considered to be the greatest innovators of their times and whose personalities shone not any less brighter than their exceptional designs. It makes us naturally jump to conclusion that the direction in which fashion is evolving is determined by those whose names are the most famous and whose identities are so distinct you’d never, ever confuse them with another designer – even in your sleep (it makes me think instantly of Alessandro Michele, creative director at Gucci). Well, it’s only partially true. The current fashion landscape is largely dominated by a group of unconventional individuals who don’t sanctify clothes and treat them rather as a means of experimentation. And sometimes they serve results in such bizarre and shocking forms that it leads the fashion society to questioning whether they’re geniuses or dilettantes. But who are they I’m talking about, whose names are not necessarily widely-known but whose contribution to fashion is immeasurable?
There is a huge bubble around the fashion collective called Vetements and its leader Demna Gvasalia right now, who’s also a creative director at Balenciaga. The importance of his role concerning the rise of this new generation of brave creators is undeniable, but he’s only a part of the story. That’s why I was really excited when Lamu Slenis asked me to write about Sebastien Meunier, head designer at Ann Demeulemeester. Sebastien shows little ambition to outshine Ann’s name – in fact, none ambition at all, because he knows he’s working for her legacy. The important part is that he has enough ambitions to bring a renewed sense of energy to the exceptional brand, which is well known for its particular interpretations of romanticism and unwillingness to submit to the leading trends. Sebastien is romantic himself, but in an unconventional way – all he needs to express his état d’esprit are small red threads of “I am red in love” on white shirts from his newest menswear collection (a formula imbued with references to pop culture, because who doesn’t know “drunk in love” or “crazy in love”?”).
Sebastien isn’t one of those who grew up dreaming about working in fashion – initially, he studied law and fashion appeared in his horizons only when he decided to take up something that could help bolster his own identity. Sebastien started studying at ESMOD in Paris, later he worked for Maison Margiela and met Ann Demeulemeester – he was appointed the head designer of menswear collections after an interview, which lasted only for thirty minutes! The rest is history: Ann designed Sebastien as successor after her departure and gave him green light to further develop the line of her own name. It’s obvious that Sebastien excels at it: The brand isn’t stuck on the codes developed by Ann, but it still preserves its enigmatic quality.
Why is it important to talk about designers like Sebastien and others, such as afore-mentioned Gvasalia, Jacquemus, Off White, Josep Font from Delpozo? The most interesting part in this story is that this new generation of designers refuses all the philosophical undertones that are constantly used trying to explain their popularity and their artistic approaches, because, well, you really need an explanation why you would buy (or create) a simple yellow shirt with DHL logo for 245 euros (to those not initiated: this is one of Vetements’ top creations). Ironically, there is no ideological or philosophical basis for all that. Even Demna Gvasalia denies that he’s trying to challenge fashion industry in any way or create “anti” phenomena. He prefers to qualify his experimentations as based on “fun” (“fun” also seems to be an appropriate term do describe what’s happening at Gucci right now). Jacquemus talks about the importance of “spontaneity” and affirms he has no particular “philosophy”. Sebastien insists on the atmosphere. It’s not the result that’s placed on the pedestal, but the process of creation itself. And the process is only fun when no one assigns a set of rules to it: whether it concerns hiring non-models for a runway show (Vetements) or creating clothes which look like architectural creations (Delpozo, Jacquemus). Or in Sebastien’s case, when one has absolute freedom to define the new romanticism.
These are the new fashion visionaries who are responsible for audacious trends which reign supreme on the runways and in the streets. And it’s the reason why it’s important to talk about their works, analyze them – not to find some pseudo-intellectual explanations but to understand what we can expect later. But with these innovations, I doubt if it’s even possible. At least, it’s very fun.
For Lithuanian readers, read about Josep Font (Delpozo) in the latest Lamu Slenis paper issue and about Sebastien Meunier in the October issue online.