The Belgian brand will host an event at former railway plant Stazione Leopolda on Jan. 12, celebrating 40 years of the label, which was acquired by Italian retailer Claudio Antonioli last year.
“We are honored to retrace in Florence a story that began in 1982,” said Lapo Cianchi, communication and events director at the fair’s organizer Pitti Immagine. “The event designed for this edition of Pitti Uomo will have a special energy, thanks to the exchange between different forms of creative expression, special attention to younger generations and a synchronic storytelling, between future, present and past of Ann Demeulemeester’s fashion.”
Cianchi continued praising the brand for “not conforming and occupying a precise space on the international scene quietly but with determination, as well as for its attitude to renew itself each time remaining faithful to an original intuition.”
“The new course of the brand, started by a visionary entrepreneur like Claudio Antonioli, works along those lines through an ideal dialogue between the founder and her canons,” Cianchi noted.
Indeed, Antonioli has placed the utmost importance on preserving the DNA and honoring the legacy of the founder, who is one of the original Antwerp Six.
After graduating at the Belgian city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1981, Demeulemeester began taking part in fashion contests and events with her collections in 1982. She officially launched her eponymous label and commercial collection in 1987 with longtime partner Patrick Robyn and began showing in Paris in 1992, quickly becoming 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.
The designer left her label in 2013. In 2019, she quietly entered the home category with Dé Tableware, featuring brush strokes to produce a “chiaroscuro” effect.
While an in-house team now designs the collections, Demeulemeester remains close to the brand, often holding extensive conversations with Antonioli.
The Pitti announcement follows a major few months for both the designer and the brand: The reopening of a historic flagship in Antwerp, where Demeulemeester’s homeware and lighting designs are also on display; pride of place in the permanent exhibit of the city’s overhauled MoMu fashion museum, and a new direction for the business.
Antonioli is proving his eagerness in restoring the storied brand to its former glory after years of what he described as over-distribution and, at times, insufficient quality. Since taking full control of the company, the executive shifted almost all manufacturing to Italy and has trimmed the number of wholesale doors by 60 percent, eyeing the opportunity to open freestanding boutiques in Paris, London and Milan in the next two or three years, and in Asia with partners.
Antonioli founded his first Milan retail outpost in 1987 and is a cofounder of streetwear conglomerate New Guards Group, which was acquired by Farfetch. In addition to his Antonioli stores — with physical locations in Milan and Torino in Italy, Lugano in Switzerland and Ibiza in Spain, plus the website — the entrepreneur established a company called Dreamers Factory that will encompass Ann Demeulemeester and future projects that relate to his personal passions.
It is understood this is just the first announcement Pitti Uomo organizers will make to build up the hype around the 101st edition of the international men’s wear trade show. All details will be unveiled during the official press conference organizers will host on Nov. 16 in Milan.
In June, South African designer Thebe Magugu was tapped as special guest for the milestone, centenary edition of the event, which also marked the fair’s return to the physical format after the halt caused by the pandemic. For the occasion, Magugu — who won the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2019 — presented his first full men’s collection with a theatrical performance.
Former guest brands and designers showing in Florence included Jil Sander’s creative directors Lucie and Luke Meier; Y/Project’s creative director Glenn Martens; JW Anderson; Roberto Cavalli, and Craig Green.