Ann Demeulemeester’s Stefano Gallici on Love for Ann, Building a Community

TRIESTE, Italy —Ann Demeulemeester has always been the polar star of my career in fashion,” said the brand’s creative director Stefano Gallici.

“I’m in touch with Ann weekly,” he revealed. “As much as she’s no longer involved in the company, she remains my unfiltered counselor.”

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The soft-spoken designer was promoted to the top creative job in June of last year, replacing Ludovic de Saint Sernin, who exited the brand after only six months. Gallici has since unveiled several collections, the most recent, for fall 2024, showing more of his grip on the brand’s rich history and archives and a “personal vision, infused with intriguing rawness,” as WWD noted in the show review.

Speaking on the sidelines of his jury duties for the 2023-2024 edition of the International Talent Support fashion contest, known as ITS, Gallici shared that his love for the brand was born early on.

“It all started way before venturing into fashion, as a teenage boy, when my father would make me listen to certain sounds and music from his vinyl collection, and introduced me to a lot of the artists — from Nick Cave to Patti Smith — that were so close to Ann,” he said. “They recognized themselves in the brand and the universe that Ann would telegraph, they were really close to her as a person.”

Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection at Paris Fashion Week
Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection at Paris Fashion Week

Those teenage memories struck a chord and perhaps influenced his fascination for the Antwerp scene. After graduating from Venice’s Iuav University, he moved to the Belgian city, joining Haider Ackermann as assistant designer.

“I’ve always had the desire to stay within that system, which is a pillar of my aesthetics education,” Gallici said. The designer moved on to the Antonioli Group in 2019 and joined Ann Demeulemeester a year later when the group founded by Claudio Antonioli acquired the label.

One of the original Antwerp Six who helped put that small Belgian city on the global fashion map with her soigné tailoring and dark glamour, “Queen Ann,” as WWD anointed her in a headline following a blockbuster collection in 1995, bowed out of fashion in 2013 to embark on other ventures, namely pottery and ceramics.

Gallici is mindful that love and respect can turn into boundaries, but he’s not afraid to toy with the original vision, which he feels very much in tune with.

“It’s impossible to eclipse Ann’s figure.…I think her approach to design has been marked by self-reflection, almost retrospective, and it’s always been stimulating for me, having had the chance to know her at the beginning of my journey here,” he said. “I think we share the same humble approach to design, and similar references…it would make absolutely no sense to disrespect her language…her concepts are still tremendously modern.

“When I look at her world, I see it as a creative and explorative landscape. The archive is a forest to step into,” he said.

If Demeulemeester’s career in fashion was heavily informed and punctuated by music, so much so that one could tell her ethereal and exacting aesthetic was the fashion embodiment of a Patti Smith lyric, Gallici wants to repurpose that ethos on his own terms.

“My goal is to keep paying homage to artists that have been integral to my growth, but what I’m trying to bring about is some fresh talent, to cross-pollinate the brand with people that are a source of daily inspiration for me,” he said.

Backstage at Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection at Paris Fashion Week
Backstage at Ann Demeulemeester Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection at Paris Fashion Week

Case in point: a recently bowed campaign titled “Kids,” which he describes as a “visual diary,” spotlights youngsters from Berlin, Paris and London that Gallici photographed himself with analogue and Polaroid cameras on a roving trip throughout Europe. The community-building effort gathers what he bills as “makers,” from model and musician Edwin Tay, musicians October Logan and Edward Drewett to artist Alexander Carey-Morgan, among others.

“I’ve been on a European tour, meeting friends and young people who have something to say, also outside fashion, but want to say it on their own terms, with their own voice. I’m so in tune with that urge and I feel like these new generations deserve to be spotlighted in this ecosystem,” he explained.

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