Buro exclusive: Interview with Haider Ackermann

The unapologetic artist

Buro exclusive: Interview with Haider Ackermann
Buro 24/7 catches up with the Paris-based designer after his debut menswear runway show for spring/summer 2016

Several days after his spring/summer 2016 men's show, Haider Ackermann was in his showroom buzzing with buyers. The Colombian born designer came down from the top floor of the building where he was shooting the looks for his e-commerce platform — to be launched soon.

Such hands-on attention may seem unlikely from a designer who has been fashion's darling for the past number of years. And yet, despite all the attention Ackermann has received, his line still feels intimate — a kind of a club that is not marked by exclusivity but by affinity. Everyone is welcome, but you either get it or you don't.

Ackermann is one of those few designers who has not only clearly delineated his aesthetic, but built a loyal following around it; one that includes a carefully curated list of celebrities and art personages — most notably actress and good friend, Tilda Swinton.

This season marked his first proper runway show for his men's collection held in the courtyard of the Galliera Museum. I chat with Ackermann about his show debut and why he makes no apologies for high fashion and luxury.

There is a certain easiness to designing for men. It's less calculated which gives me more freedom. 

Are you happy with the show and the response so far?
Yes, I feel much more at ease now. It was a first runway show so there was a kind of fresh energy to it. I loved the music, venue and the casting was perfect. Working with all these boys was such a pleasure. They were so generous with their kindness and easiness.

Do you have a long-term relationship with some of these models?
Yes, although I haven't worked that much with male models yet — it's usually women. I like to build a family around me. I like the fact that you see familiar faces all the time. It's a continuation that's beautiful. It makes work more charming.

People usually talk about fashion as change, but I find things that last more beautiful. Do you?
Yes, and it is also the same when everybody talks about luxury. Luxury is not something you should throw away or change every season. For me, I also see luxury in working with the same person every time. There is a kind of intimacy and longevity in it.

Haider Ackermann SS16

You have developed luxury that is specific to you, in a way that is very relaxed and nonchalant. How do you find that balance?
I would like to dress immaculately and look sharp. But I'm not one of those men. I'm not an anxious person. I have to feel comfortable and at ease. 

Was there anything specific that you wanted to imbue into this particular collection?
It almost sounds very selfish, but I was a little bit tired of all the silks and things I did in the past. I just wanted to concentrate on the daily life and not the seduction of silks. So, that's why I tried to use more linen and cotton in classic colours like blues and white. But, then of course I had to switch it up with gold to disturb it. I love the challenge of taking the daily life and uplifting it.

Colours play a very important part in your work...
You know when I started designing there was almost no colour at all. I always wanted to be a very discreet person. I was always searching for that person at a party who would be standing in the corner — not the person looking for the limelight. I also have a rich background in colour from all my travels that I try to translate into my work. I want colours to be very deep and profound. When it's red, it has to be blood red. When it's blue, it has to be midnight blue.

Are there any particular fabrics that you love and keep coming back to?
Yes, I've always been attracted to jacquard. I would love to work more with leather because it is something that is very primal in the sense of a second skin. It's sexuality and sensuality, and has an animal instinct about it. It makes everything more edgy.

Is there a difference in your approach to designing for men and women?
There is a certain easiness to designing for men. It's less calculated which gives me more freedom. Perhaps with women's, I think it through more because she is more of a stranger to me. Even if she is close to me, designing for a man comes more naturally because of the close connection.

I have no difficulty being attracted to a haute bourgeois lady or a trashy prostitute. Both of them talk to me and I would try to include them in one silhouette.  

Is the man you're designing for you or someone you love... or a combination?
It is someone I would like to be. When I see all those male models with tattoos, I find it absolutely romantic. That kind of romance does not exist anymore because we do not write each other letters. I wish I had the courage to have the names of my lovers memorised in words. Every model that had tattoos at the show told me the story behind them. It was like reading someone's diary.

You once said "I'm afraid that the women I imagine will fall into bourgeois taste."
Strangely enough, I've always been attracted to bourgeoisie and its trashy side. There's a rebel in the bourgeoisie that I really like.

But isn't there a certain complacency to the bourgeoisie... a kind of self-satisfaction and an inability to question?
Yes, but at the same time, everything is cool. What the world presents is something cool. It's as much thought through as the woman whose purse matches her belt and her shoes. I have no difficulty being attracted to a haute bourgeois lady or a trashy prostitute. Both of them talk to me and I would try to include them in one silhouette. In every part of the bourgeoisie, there must be a twisted side. Otherwise, one can't be that bourgeois.

Is that reflected in your work and the materials that you use?
Yes, it reflects in the complexity of life. There is a little bit of everything in every man and woman. That's why I will try making a sweatshirt by adding silk — just to clash it, make it more intriguing and disturbing.

Haider Ackermann Men's SS16

It seems like every designer now is making Instagram-friendly clothes that's very graphic and with big slogans. You don't seem like you're in a rush to do that?
I don't use Instagram, so I don't know that language yet. I put my creative energy elsewhere, but I have nothing against it. For instance, I have this sweatshirt that has the word 'Dream' on it. Every time I feel moody, I like to put that sweatshirt on because the word just lifts me up a little bit. Strange, isn't it?

To see the full Haider Ackermann SS16 menswear collection, click on the slideshow below.

For all our coverage of Paris men's fashion week SS16, click here. 

Text: Eugene Rabkin

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