Haider Ackermann isn’t gunning for a big red-carpet moment to rocket his career. In fact, when he had his first one with Tilda Swinton, he went on vacation as planned.
Unswerving as that may have been, the Colombian-born designer is not about to compromise his individualism or cash in on the celebrity quota. During a Q&A with WWD’s executive editor Bridget Foley, Ackermann discussed his artistic approach to fashion. While the Antwerp Fashion Academy of Fine Arts grad has not ruled out developing a secondary label, and does like the idea of designing jewelry, he explained why he remains focused on developing his signature style, and how time is the greatest luxury.
Bridget Foley: You said just a few hours ago, “China, growth, Twitter, expansion — we are talking also about fashion.” Where’s the mystery? Where’s the romanticism? Where’s the dream? How much stress do you find between the creative process and the demands of business in an increasing global and all-access world? Haider Ackermann: It’s very difficult, because you have to question yourself, how much you preserve of yourself and how much you give to the outside world. I’m going through a very delicious time at the moment. People are getting so demanding, but you have to protect yourself. Listening to Tory Burch this morning was very interesting because it is very opposite of what I’m about — all this Twitter, Internet, Facebook, I don’t have any of that. Maybe I will change my way of thinking, but for the moment I prefer to focus on the message I will send there.
B.F.: How do you channel that one message when you are not involved with social media, and unlike many of your peers, have not embraced the role of a quote-unquote celebrity designer? You shy away from that. H.A.: Sometimes it’s very difficult in this business, because as a designer you have the feeling you have to be a celebrity. It’s almost as though it is you coming before your work. Now all the rules are changing. It scares me a lot, actually.
B.F.: You are one of the most sought-after designers. How do you describe your aesthetic and why do you think it has caught on? You are making the transition from almost an insider cult fashion favorite to much more mainstream, with a following. H.A.: I’ve been very lucky to be protected by big persons like Mr. Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, and suddenly everything took different proportions. And I think maturity and having the right kind of signature. People are just paying attention.
B.F.: How do you describe your aesthetic? H.A.: In this world we are in now, it is very difficult to talk about beauty, because we talk about so many things. And there is so much violence out there. For me, I am just trying to search for a kind of beauty or elegance that I might believe in. How to describe it, I don’t know. I am trying to figure that out as well.
B.F.: Your early work wasn’t as colorful as it is now, and you have been likened to some of the greatest colorists since Yves Saint Laurent. Where does the color come from? What speaks to you about that right now? H.A.: I’m just happy more. It’s stupid but it’s true, so that might help. When you’re a designer — it sounds rather foolish and romantic — you just design who you are, what you’re going through or what is happening in your life….It translates into your work. Perhaps when you’re in love everything is more generous.
B.F.: In the past there was an intimacy between designer and actress, a faithfulness that is missing right now. Talk a little bit about your take on that level between the celebrity and the fashion designer. H.A.: Nowadays everything seems so forced. In the past, you had Mr. Saint Laurent and Catherine Deneuve or Audrey Hepburn and Mr. Givenchy, everything came across naturally. I think this is the beauty of a relationship that you can build up with an actress. I think the volume that is going on with the red carpet is kind of a prostitution. You just throw the clothes to the people. I like to develop a relationship. Certainly in America it’s very important that lots of actresses are wearing your clothes, and it helps your sales. It doesn’t feel honest to me. If I haven’t met a person before, if I don’t know what she’s about, if I don’t have any connection to her, why should I do it?
B.F.: Why do you think the importance of the red carpet has exploded so much? H.A.: It has to do with the media. That’s all that counts at the moment. Everybody is only looking at that.
B.F.: Do you have other specific inspirations, or do you have a muse? H.A.: I don’t believe in the word “muse.” I think every magazine is talking about muses. Muse used to be a silent person, where the woman I am attracted to is very verbal. I need that kind of exchange.
B.F.: You do have a special relationship with Tilda Swinton. Would you talk about that for a minute? First of all, what do you think of her style? H.A.: What I like about her is that when she’s doing something, she stands behind it without worrying whether people like it or not. Also, it’s very interesting when a lady wears something that is kind of ugly. At least it questions you. It’s not all about having beautiful breasts and red lipstick and a beautiful ass. In the Sixties, we had Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren which were fantastic. Perhaps now the role of the woman should be moving forward, and Tilda is helping that. Eight years ago, after my second show, she contacted me, and we’ve collaborated for eight years now.
B.F.: Initially you wouldn’t change your plans for her, right? H.A.: Absolutely not. Eight years ago, she asked me to dress her for Cannes, and I had to make this evening dress, and her agent and everyone called me, saying, “Please, please, be there.” And I said, no, I’m going to India. I have a trip with the person I love. I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to go. So everyone was kind of shocked, but I think she respected the fact that I didn’t show up. You have to very much listen to yourself. Otherwise, you get absorbed by the whole system.
B.F.: Speaking of the system, the fashion calendar, the number of collections, the increasing interest in speed to market because things are seen so quickly in real time — what is the impact of that on the creative side? H.A.: First, I do believe time is the new luxury, because we don’t take the time, especially in fashion. You don’t ask a writer to write 10 books in one year. You don’t ask a filmmaker to make six films a year. It’s going to such extremes — you have a cruise collection, a pre-collection….How much can you squeeze from a person? It’s good to question ourselves. How much do we have to do? How many collections? Are we not losing ourselves by acting like this? Are we not losing ourselves by doing too much? To do something beautiful, you have to spend time on it. When you see Mr. [Azzedine] Alaïa’s work, you can see he is spending time on it. We are rushing, we are running. How can you make a beautiful product if you don’t have the time for it?
B.F.: Do you think the major brands that set the business side of fashion have to almost give up something on the creative side to be so big, so vast and so powerful? H.A.: Yes, in the big industry, they all think that every designer is replaceable. That is simply not true. Some designers have a soul.
B.F.: That sounds like a window.Do you have any thoughts on any houses that might have an opening? H.A.: No.
B.F.: What’s great about fashion? H.A.: I love the idea that fashion can be a beautiful product and that I still believe that fashion can make people dream. I like to think it’s my role to make people dream.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye