Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Style Maven: Haider Ackermann

I know I maybe kind of late, but this month I had the pleasure of viewing for the first time the movie, "Coco Before Chanel" which was released in 2009. It was actually a fitting time for me to catch it on television because looking back on fashion history this month, this certain portrayal of this Style Maven, gave me a new perspective of how Chanel so epically influenced modern fashion. By the end of the movie I understood the strength behind elegance, and what is meant by her quote, "Elegance is refusal." Her quest for happiness and financial independence is a marvel considering her humble beginnings. The growth of the Chanel brand as one of the most distinguished of fashion houses is such inspiration not just for us people infatuated with fashion, but for anyone who desires to build their own brand in whatever industry they choose. Her refusal to let others have control over what happened with her life, or what she stood for, is what helped her to create a brand with such distinctive quality, so distinctive that it helped to replace the furbellowed over-the-top sense of elegance that had existed pretty much since the European Renaissance which began almost five centuries prior to her success. To having been an abandoned orphan, to transforming herself into the most sought after couturière in  the turbulent period of war and economic recovery during the Great Depression, to today, in our post-modern era, her style maxims have further expanded the realm of elegance in ways never before conceived as elegant, and they helped to free women of their misogynistic past. Her concept of elegance based on simplistic design (i.e. Her use of knit jersey; the woolen Chanel suit; the little black dress; quilted purses and pockets) helped to establish the independent and active women of today which gave women utility and ease, as she put the women first, before the clothes. As Vogue outlined in their 2011 Best Dressed issue, her core paradoxes were between the feminine and the masculine, the ethereal and the tweedy, ornamentation and absence, and mystery and the body. She is quoted by Vogue  stating, "The life we lead is nothing, the life we dream of if the existence that matters, because it will continue after death." Karl Lagerfeld took over the helm in 1983 having been the creative director for Chloe, translating Chanel's legacy through "Marienbad-esque encounters of black and white, dissolving hems, crisp caressable contrasts in texture, and the grace note of a camellia." Coco Chanel has lived on through Lagerfeld's design, and his understanding of the Chanel woman, a woman whose nonchalance has become the epitome of luxury. Considering Lagerfeld has carried on Chanel's legacy for the past 30 years, it begs the question, who will be the successor to his position? When Numero Magazine asked him this question in 2010, he apparently was unhesitant to answer, Haider Ackermann. 

Paris based designer, Haider Ackermann
Now, if you are the type of person that keeps up with the things that Karl Lagerfeld reports to the press, you would know that the next Spring in 2011, he retracted this statement to say Ackermann would most likely do better at Givenchy. About replacing him at Chanel he said, "Its not his world I don't think." In my fashion, his first suggestion wasn't too bad of an idea. Ackermann has been rumored to be good fit for multiple brands in the past few years, but regardless of whether he decides to become head designer for any one of the fashion world's most coveted brands, or never sways away from his own self-entitled line, the talent is obviously there for him to succeed in the fashion world as a pioneer for the look of women in future years, with savvy business acumen withstanding. When Lady Gaga wore one of his deconstructed dresses on her first cover for the March 2011 issue of American Vogue, he got an amazing response which is one sign of his upward moving path in the fashion industry. I, personally, connect with Ackermann on a number of levels in regards to fashion, and his views on life in general. Reading his interviews conducted by W Magazine, I found that his perspectives correlate with how I, too, feel about how fashion relates to all of us. Like my own childhood, Ackermann led a very diverse and nomadic childhood which lends the ability to fit in everywhere. When asked why he became a fashion designer, he responded, "We’re all in search of something. My search is for beauty, and that’s very important nowadays. My father works for Amnesty International, and of course we need people like him, but we also need people who are searching for beauty." In my fashion, the most beautiful thing to see on anyone is a pure, and unrestrained smile. For him, what he loves about fashion is that people always smile when you talk about it, which is one of my main reasons for my interest in fashion—to see people smile. Having so many people come and go from my life living as a military brat, I find helping people smile is the greatest gift I can leave behind for the people that I encounter. In my fashion, it is the one thing that leaves the biggest impression upon a person, and people remember the things that make them smile. To me, having been exposed to so many different cultures, I find that at the end of the day, the things that bring people happiness are the only things that really matter in life, no matter where you live. 

I adore the type of women Ackermann designs for, as well as his concept of "a luxury that’s a bit négligé, that can be rich but doesn't look rich." He continues to explain in one W Magazine interview from January 2011 that, "The collection is quite hard. You need to have a kind of attitude to wear it. An attitude more than anything else makes a woman beautiful." Ackermann believes in a discreet type of attitude, which is contrary to the bold and in-your-face attitude typically associated with a confident women. You can tell through his avant garde, yet nonchalant appealing design that the women he designs for would rather observe whats going on around her than to be in the spotlight, but in her own way she is just as much noticed as the women who commands attention as she sweeps through the room. The sexy type of women he designs for speaks to a woman’s "manly" side, and I think it's fascinating how he describes what exactly he means by the word "manly", considering he doesn't consider it androgynous sense : "I think that a woman standing strongly, fighting to be desired, is very sexual." He also says that, " To show yourself is rather violent. But while she is in the light, she can be silent," which I find to be profoundly deep when you think about it. In my fashion, reading his philosophies on design and the way they tie into life, is like reading the ingredients of a dream. Like many fashion and beauty experts, his view on life is very influenced by the films of the Italian director, Luchino Visconti: In Visconti movies, people suffer but look fantastic doing it. "Those are two important aspects of life. We have heavy hearts sometimes, but we still want to be desired." 

Haider Ackermann Fall 2012 and Spring 2012 Collection looks

In my fashion, Ackermann's poetic view of life would poise him to be an integral part of fashion's future. As for taking over at Chanel, I would hope to one day see this come to pass for it would definitely shake things up a bit. But alas, at the moment, Ackermann seems set on staying true to who he is, and his view of how a women should live in this life. If you continue reading the rest of this post you will find more in depth examples of the things and people in life that have heavily influenced him over the years. In my fashion, the following responses from his interview in the August 2012 issue of W Magazine reveal aspects of life of which I think we all can relate to. The wisest thing I learned from this interview was learning the meaning of "Errance—losing yourself by escaping to an unfamiliar place or just dreaming," which, in my fashion, is something we should practice daily, using fashion as a mechanism to do so. Read on to see where Ackerman finds errances in life, and see for yourself if you can concur with my opinion on whether Ackermann would fit for Chanel, or another brand like Givenchy. I'm dying to hear your opinions, so don't hesitate to comment. For those who understand the needs of the Chanel women in regards to design, in my fashion, a future with Ackermann at the helm will yield most positive results for the continuance of the Chanel brand.


"I love to go to the Sahara—you feel like this very small person in the immensity of the desert. The light is amazing, and there is no horizon, which is very intriguing. During the day, it is too hot to move around; so you follow the moon at night, and it leads you across the landscape. You find yourself walking endlessly, not knowing where you will end up.

My first experience of the Sahara was when I was a child and a friend of my parents took me there on the back of a motorbike. It was so great to be out in the open air with this incredible sense of freedom. The last time I went was five years ago. We traveled in a jeep and then rode on camels, which was very uncomfortable. After two hours, you’re like: Enough—where’s the car? I would love to go back, though any endless landscape would do. ­Patagonia, Scotland—it’s about losing yourself in nature."


"In Madrid, I recently went to see Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya, the flamenco dancer known as Farruquito. He is considered one of the best flamenco dancers, but in 2003 he killed a pedestrian with his car and drove off without reporting the accident. He was arrested and sent to prison­—he served such a short sentence that all of Spain was incensed.

Before his performance, there was this incredible tension in the crowd. People had loved him so much, but they couldn’t bring themselves to show their adoration for him because of what had happened. Then he started to dance—and he was so magnificent that they had to stop tormenting him. They were clapping, then screaming, shouting, and crying. They had so much love for him that they couldn't hold it in."


"I discovered her work when I was a student. She was not the most famous fashion designer, but she remains one of the best. Her work is so timeless and beautiful to look at and to touch: very simple, discreet, and elegant. Absolutely everything was done by hand—every pleat.

Coco Chanel once said, “Elegance is refusal,” and Madame Grès was all about refusal. When you see someone in a dress by her, you don’t look at the garment first; you look at the woman. I own one dress by Madame Grès, which I bought years ago from a friend, and I went to see her exhibition at Musée Bourdelle in Paris last year five times. It was incredible. If a girl wore any of those dresses to a ball today, she would look like one of the most modern women ever."


"I feel very charmed to have met so many wonderful people because of my work, but my most memorable meeting was with the photographer, perfumer, and art director Serge ­Lutens (one of his 1995 Shiseido images is pictured). It was years ago, at his house in Marrakech. He came down the long path to greet me dressed entirely in black. It must have been 100 degrees, but he didn’t have a drop of sweat.

Listening to him made me dream. His choice of words is so rich, and he has incredible stories of working with Dior and on the Shiseido campaigns—where everything was about beauty, grace, refinement, and elegance. Then he gave me the most amazing gift. I was going through troubled times then, and he could see it. He said, “Haider, do you have 10 minutes for me?” And for 45 minutes he read a book aloud to take me away from my worries."


"To be a dancer was my biggest dream. When we lived in Africa, my mother took my sister to classical-ballet classes, and I would sit there with my best friend. One day the teacher said, “Stand up, boys, you’re going to dance.” I enjoyed it so much. When we left for the Netherlands, the teacher told my mother to make sure that I continued, but the school there was filled with girls in little tutus. I was the only boy, and I didn’t speak the language, so I abandoned it—and I have always regretted it.

There is nothing more beautiful than dancing. I enjoy it even more now, because I feel much freer. At parties, you’ll find me dancing on a table. When I’m alone at home, I love to turn the music up loud and dance. My neighbors must think I’m a total lunatic. It’s my Colombian side."


"When you prick the tip of your finger, the blood is this beautiful shade of dark red. The color does not last very long—as the blood dries, it goes brownish and looks horrible, but for a fraction of a second it’s incredible. Discovering that you have cut your finger can be distressing and painful, of course—but looking at that magnificent shade of red is a beautiful distraction.

I long to work with fabric in that color, and I am always looking for it, but I’ve never found it. I have seen reds in Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko (at left is Untitled, 1968) paintings that are as intense as blood red, with the same violence and fear and with a kind of perversion. All those layers of red paint, one on top of the other, feel very sexual."


"The first film I ever saw was Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard. Growing up in Africa, we never went to the movies, but just before we left for the Netherlands, we went to see this film. Aaah—it was fantastic! Suddenly, a sense of beauty opened up for me. It was so far from the world we knew, where all the houses were quite empty—just cushions with low tables. On the screen there were crinolines, chandeliers, and wonderful dresses blowing in the wind. Such decadence.

I also like the nobility in Visconti’s films—the way his characters do not need to speak, because you can see what they are thinking by the way they look. There is a discretion in his movies—the dignity of people living in a society where you could not allow yourself to do whatever you wanted. So different from today."


"I always wear scarves (far left). Sometimes they can look absolutely elegant, and other times they offer protection. It started when I was very young, in Africa—we were always wrapped to protect ourselves from the sun. I remember in Ethiopia the women would walk by draped in fabric, disappearing ­between the dunes like Giacometti figures with their long necks. The gestures people make when draping themselves can be very beautiful too. In India, especially, men have such an elegant way of putting their scarves on.

I wore scarves when I was very young, and as I got older, people laughed at me for wearing them, but I didn’t care. Playing with fabric is where my love of clothes came from: I love to layer, drape, and twist it. It gives me so much pleasure—it is part of my identity."

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