By Miles Socha
with contributions from Alessandra Turra
 on September 16, 2020
Backstage at Ann Demeulemeester RTW Fall 2020

Claudio Antonioli is the new owner of Ann Demeulemeester. This confirms a report in WWD on July 5 that the Italian retailer was in advanced talks to acquire the Antwerp-based fashion house.

The deal includes the brand’s complete archive, the headquarters, its historic flagship in Antwerp, and its showroom space in Paris. Financial and other terms were not disclosed.

Demeulemeester, who exited the creative helm in 2013, applauded the deal.

“Mr. Antonioli has been a ‘compagnon de route’ [traveling companion] ever since the early days of the brand. I am delighted and supportive of this new beginning. The house will be filled with new energy and I look to the future with confidence,” she said in a brief statement revealing the transaction.

“The fact that Ann wanted to be part of the announcement means that she is very close to the project,” Antonioli told WWD in an phone interview. “However, we will unveil further details in the future.”

The retailer called Ann Demeulemeester “the brand that played the biggest role in my life, not only because I’ve always sold it, but also because I wear it. When I found out that that the brand was on sale, I immediately asked Ann to help me facilitating the process. I don’t have a financial objective. My ultimate goal to do something beautiful, preserving and protecting this brand that I love so much.”

It is understood the brand was majority-controlled by Anne Chapelle, longtime chief executive officer of Ann Demeulemeester, and that she will exit the role in the wake of deal.

“I’m considering different people for the role of ceo but no decision has been taken yet,” Antonioli said.

The deal sets the stage for a new era at Ann Demeulemeester, which also recently parted ways with creative director Sébastien Meunier, who took up the reins after the founder’s departure. He had been Demeulemeester’s head men’s designer since 2010.

The statement said a creative director has yet to be identified and “the first show of the new course will take place in March during Paris Fashion Week.”

A Belgian entrepreneur who had been managing director of Demeulemeester’s business since 1994, Chapelle acquired an undisclosed stake in the company in 2005 and later added the Haider Ackermann business to her stable.

A pensive woman with Gothic leanings, Demeulemeester helped put Antwerp on the global fashion map with her soigné tailoring and dark glamour.

A graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, she began showing in Paris in 1992 and quickly became a fashion star, with WWD anointing her “Queen Ann” in a headline following a blockbuster collection in 1995 that would influence runways in other fashion capitals. She added men’s wear a year later.

Last year, Demeulemeester quietly entered the home category with Dé Tableware with black or red brush strokes that produce a “chiaroscuro” effect.

Claudio Antonioli founded his first Milan retail outpost in 1987 and is a cofounder of streetwear conglomerate New Guards Group, recently acquired by Farfetch.

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