Ann Demeulemeester to reopen iconic Antwerp flagship boutique
Ann Demeulemeester will reopen her iconic Antwerp flagship boutique this week, in a key step in the relaunch of the brand since its acquisition by New Guards founder Claudio Antonioli.
“The renewed flagship store in Antwerp celebrates the renaissance of the brand under Claudio’s wings,” said Demeulemeester in a release.
The house of Ann Demeulemeester staged its last show this March in Paris in a collection designed by an in-house studio team. Prior to that Sébastien Meunier had been its creative director, taking the reins in 2013 when the founder decided to retire in a surprise move.
Demeulemeester launched her house back the 1980s and rapidly gained recognition as one of the Antwerp Six – that included Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Marina Yee, Dirk Bikkembergs and Dirk Van Saene – who collectively established Belgium as a major force in fashion.
She and Patrick Robyn, her husband and partner, opened the store back in 1999. Hence its overhaul is an important symbol for the brand, especially as Robyn has personally redesigned the 520-square-meter flagship from start to finish.
Since quitting the house Ann took courses in ceramics and launched a Serax collection of homewares. These will be on display in the revamped store, which opens officially this Thursday.
Located in an 1880s Beaux Arts building on Leopold de Waelplaats in Antwerp’s Zuid district, the store was originally built as a school for seamen.
The reopening is a key move for the Ann Demeulemeester company, in the wake of its acquisition by Antonioli, who acquired the brand in September 2020. His stated goal is to take the label back to the cult status it had acquired over the four decades. Considering that he and his former partner Davide De Giglio sold New Guards – an Italian sportwear group which controls the license to Virgil Abloh’s Off-White - to Farfetch for $675 million in August 2019, Antonioli certainly has the capital to invested in restoring Demeulemeester to its former glory.
Stressed Antonioli: “I am honored to be able to reopen this iconic flagship. Since the beginning of this project my mission has been to preserve the brand’s ethos, of which the store is a big part.”
Often nicknamed Queen Ann, Demeulemeester grew to be a highly influential designer whose romantic-rock style and blend of luxury and degraded fabrics created a highly unique aesthetic. Her ability to harness Japanese ideas of deconstruction with unexpected archetypes – from Caribbean rum plantation owners or Hermann Hesse characters to gentleman explorers – led to a particularly memorable poetic body of fashion ideas.
In the store, the original wooden floor has been restored and stained black, while floor-to-ceiling black curtains now line the windows on the ground floor. The space features large mirrors, with French doors opening onto a Victorian fern courtyard, designed to serve as an oasis of calm and privacy that encourages customers to try clothes on at their leisure. Other custom elements are a brand-new cash wrap; 11-meter-long hanging rails; and a large circular footwear display with built-in seating on the first floor.
“I hope that when our customers get home after buying something in this shop, their clothes will remain loaded with memories, emotion, and meaning,” explained Robyn.
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