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traditionally take place on the Saturday morning of Paris Fashion Week, are not live streamed, never too grand but always packed to the limit. “I don’t go to many shows because it makes me insecure, but when you see other shows, you ask, ‘Who are all these people?’ It’s become something else,” Haider shrugs. He dreams of scaling down his own shows to two hundred people, but then, as he notes, “People might find you arrogant. You have to be very careful not to hurt anyone.” Enthralled by the magic of the intimate

waves in the industry, and he was suddenly on the horizons of

presentations he witnessed as a young man, Ackermann

leading stockists – and eventually leading ladies, too.

turns into something of a poet whenever he talks about the

While his answer to most celebrity requests is no, it’s

institution of the fashion show. (Ask him about the shows of

almost impossible to talk about Haider Ackermann without

John Galliano, with whom he interned in his youth, and his

mentioning the starlets who wear it. (This not necessarily

words will make you feel like you were there.)

counting a particular occasional wearer… “I had made a

“There’s nothing more beautiful than being present at the

dress in gold lame, and I thought, ‘PJ Harvey would look

défilé and hearing the music properly and feeling the person

so good in this,’ and I open a magazine and Mariah Carey

breathing next to you and seeing the movement of the fabric.

bought it,” Haider grins. “That’s just a different story.”)

Every show is about movement. I think you have to be in the

From Tilda Swinton to Janet Jackson – both of whom are

space to understand what the person has to say. It can touch

good friends of Ackermann’s – they have become a kind of

you,” he muses. Moving things – both fabrics and people –

ambassadors for his house, embodying the sensual strength

play the most significant role in Ackermann’s work. Much like

and mischievous sexuality of his woman. (His favourite Janet

his garments to the skin, his evocative shows shroud you in

Jackson song is Let’s Wait a While, because it reminds

waves of sensations and envelop you in whatever mindset

him of a six-year love affair he had with a friend before he

he was in when he dreamed them up, from the forceful to

came out.) Whether it’s in the suggestive fashion of a dress

the fragile. Since his first show in 2003, he has slowly but

slithering against the female curves, or the more effective

confidently been telling the same story chapter by chapter,

solution of a translucent top worn without a bra, there’s a

exploring the depths of his sensual power woman, whose

sexiness to Ackermann’s work which sometimes borders on

masculine tailoring and ghostly dresses sit on her body like

the pornographic.

armour and second skin all at once.

Was he ever into porn? “I never watch porn because it

Don’t mention his decennial last year. Much like his aversion

doesn’t interest me at all, but one day somebody asked me

to Christmas, Ackermann abhors anniversaries. Talk about his

what I wanted to do next and I said, ‘A porn movie!’ I don’t

first collection, however, and it’s a different case. “I don’t like

know where it came from, but I love the exchange between

to look back, but there was a rawness and a naivety to it and

man/woman or man/man, woman/woman.” What would it

things done by hand that I’m not doing anymore, which is a

look like? “It shouldn’t be elegant or refined. It should be

shame. I would love to go back to that, but it would be more

quite straightforward, like a Nick Cave concert. It should

expensive because everything was hand-sewn.” The holy

have the same rawness and feeling you get there.” Does he

grail amongst Ackermann fans, the show was independently

have any experience with porn? “One of my boyfriends when

organised by the designer after he was asked to leave the

I was young did porn. I didn’t want to see it, but ten years

illustrious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp where

later I did. It’s bizarre, because when you watch the movie

he’d been studying for three years, due to the fact that

and you see his gestures,” he pauses. “I can’t say too much

“he couldn’t finish his collections” as his friend and fellow

because if you ever find out who the person is…” Ever the

alumni Raf Simons once put it. As it turned out, Ackermann

gentleman, Mr Ackermann isn’t one to kiss and tell.

was better suited for the real world. The collection created

As the old fashion world watches its industry accelerate into the future – live streams, bloggers and social media in tow – Ackermann’s good manners and unapologetic devotion to the finer (and slower) things in life represent a spirit worth protecting. And it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to draw a parallel between said spirit and what he wants people to feel when they wear his clothes. “Tilda always says, ‘When I’m on a red carpet and I’m wearing you, I feel myself and I feel protected.’ And I think that’s one of the most beautiful compliments you can get.” Incidentally, the notion isn’t that different to Ackermann’s philosophy on life. As he says, “You have to stand straight and face it.” haiderackermann.be

74 i-D MAGAZINE

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