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all hail ann demeulemeester

On Wednesday afternoon, Ann Demeulemeester announced her departure from her eponymous label, making fans around the world shed a tear for their queen of dark romance. A trusted devotee, Anders Christian Madsen pays tribute to a designer, who’s very special to him. Long live the D-Meister.

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“Did I surprise you again?” Ann Demeulemeester asked me backstage after her spring/summer 14 women’s show in Paris this September. She did, like she always does, and has for years before I even started reviewing her shows. When it comes to Ann, her surprises are veiled in many layers, not easily exposed and rarely predictable, much like her announcement on Wednesday afternoon to resign from the label she’s cultivated since 1985, which was to many of us, myself included, a heartbreaking moment. Like any of Ann’s surprises, it came cautiously and beautifully wrapped, in the shape of an email with a scanned letter, hand-written in Ann’s immaculate fantasy Renaissance pen. “As a young girl, I dreamed of having a voice in fashion,” she wrote. “I worked hard to realise this dream, and now I feel that I accomplished this mission.”

There isn’t a single Ann Demeulemeester review of mine that doesn’t open with an establishment of what it is Ann does. “My woman never changes. She evolves,” she told me once, and this has always been my key to understanding her as a designer. And yet, my love for Ann’s work lies in the unlikely factor of the surprise element. Because once you truly understand her as a designer and a person, and once she lets you in, every season is an unpredictable, thrilling new take on a universe you know and love – a universe to which you feel a personal attachment. “I don’t work with things, I work with feelings,” I remember her telling me the first time I interviewed her backstage. We have since founded a perhaps odd cycle of communication, which takes place solely through my reviews and her comments on them the following season. Ann knows I like a surprise, and I know she likes to surprise me.

I haven’t known Ann for as long as many of my colleagues in this industry, and I don’t have the same personal history with her. But I’ll miss talking to her those four times a year after her shows. I’ll miss the poetry she inspires in me and in all her followers, who wear her garments to feel like a part of the serene and darkly romantic world she’s created. I wrote my first show report for i-D on an Ann show, she was the first designer I ever interviewed backstage, and she was partly responsible for getting me this job. As a house, Ann Demeulemeester will go on, and while Paris Fashion Week without the presence of Ann herself won’t be the same, I’ll delight in the image of Ann enjoying her freedom in her countryside garden, looking at the birds and the flowers that always inspired her work, knowing that she created something that truly touched people. I just hope she’ll let me in when I come knocking, asking for an interview.