photography by BENOIT PEVERELLI
style by ROBERT RABENSTEINER
interview by SVEN SCHUMANN
SVEN SCHUMANN — You showed your first men’s collection during Pitti Uomo in 2011. Why did you take a step away from menswear afterward and wait two years to show the next collection?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — When I was approached by Pitti Uomo, they gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted. So when I was in Florence visiting all those palaces and empty places and imagining the woman who would be wandering around there, I felt like she would be waiting for someone. So I started wondering, “Who is this man that she’s waiting for? Who is the man behind the Haider Ackermann woman?” So it was more a challenge for me, a kind of exercise to understand my style a little bit better.
SVEN SCHUMANN — So it kind of happened by accident?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — It was not done with any kind of calculation or purpose; it just came out of the total sense of freedom. I didn’t have to be preoccupied with sales or whatever. It was playtime for me and got a little more serious when we understood that some of our shops wanted it. So we produced it, but I was never determined to do a men’s collection.
SVEN SCHUMANN — It must have been refreshing to approach a collection like that.
Haider Ackermann — It was very nice because nobody had expectations; nobody was waiting for it. It really was out of a generous feeling, a decision to just let yourself go, which is really rare. I never thought I would offer it for sale. It was not meant to be so. But people were enthusiastic about it, and they wanted to buy it. Everything happened in a rush, so at the beginning it was just a one-off collection. I was not ready to think about men’s yet.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Why not?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I still had to focus on women’s. I had — and still have — so much to learn about the woman. So it wasn’t until one day that I thought, “Okay. Let’s try to do this seriously.” I have a lot of freedom with my financier, so the moment I told her, “Let’s start with the men’s,” she said, “Okay, if you really want to go for it, let’s go.” But I’m not searching for the man behind the Haider Ackermann woman anymore. I’m searching for the man who is just standing there on the corner of the street. He’s much more of a reality than the woman is, probably.
Sven Schumann — Do you feel like it’s an exciting time in menswear at the moment?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I do. More than in the women’s because I have the feeling that men more than women nowadays are the ones searching for their personal style, searching to bring out their personality. Now, I’m going to have so many people against me for saying that. [Laughs] But this is true whether you travel to Asia or other countries; men are much more aware of what fashion is. But they are not just taking what’s on the catwalk — they are trying to make it their own.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Where do you think that attitude is coming from?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I think it’s connected to time. Men are much more conscious. What’s also beautiful about working on the men’s collection is you are working more on the attitude of the man, more on a style, than anything related to beauty like with women. Women are so affected by all the things that are happening in the magazines and things like that. They see too much of it, while the men are not having clothes shoved in their face.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Most men don’t read fashion magazines.
HAIDER ACKERMANN — Which is much more attractive. It’s much nicer if you build up your personal wardrobe than take what’s up there on the catwalk.
SVEN SCHUMANN — You said about your collection that you see it more as a men’s wardrobe than as a men’s collection. Why did you choose that word?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — Because it’s more dreamlike: “I would like to have this silk coat,” or “I would like to have this silk scarf.” If it would be a collection, it would be something very conformist. A big collection would be a statement. The term wardrobe is much more vague than a whole collection. I’m just trying to send out a mood, not much more than that.
SVEN SCHUMANN — With your men’s wardrobe, are you aiming to dress the man you would like to be yourself?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — Yes. Aren’t we all in love with somebody other than ourselves? I did the first collection with all these guys with tattoos, rockabillies who have all this poetry written on their bodies, and I find that so romantic. For me it was kind of new Baudelaire; it was a kind of a diary, what they had on their bodies. I looked up to them because I would never dare to do that, to be one of them. I wanted to be one of them, but I didn’t have the guts. It’s always a projection of a fantasy. You might want to be like this person that would dare to wear a silk coat on the street.
SVEN SCHUMANN — But you do wear your own clothes, no?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — For me, it’s easy to wear my clothes — it’s cheaper! I’m not such a rich designer at the end of the day! But I don’t try to make clothes for myself. To be honest, it gets on my nerves when a critic says, “Oh yes, this is such a typical Haider collection.”
SVEN SCHUMANN — Why? I don’t think it’s necessarily criticism.
HAIDER ACKERMANN — Because I’m trying to do something further away from myself. Yes, it’s a projection of what I like, but it’s certainly not about me. That would be tremendously egocentric. I might be a little bit egocentric, but not that much. [Laughs] The ones I admire are people like Mr. Visconti or Mr. Serge Lutens or Mr. Karl Lagerfeld, who dress immaculately. I totally admire this, but when I wear my clothes, I never look like a proper guy. I’m very nonchalant. So my collection always starts with me talking to the team, like, “Oh yes, this man has to be perfection, every millimeter, every centimeter…” And at the end of the day, I always fall back to my old story. [Laughs]
SVEN SCHUMANNn — In the end, no matter what you do creatively, your work will reflect your own life in some way.
HAIDER ACKERMANN — It’s true, it’s true. You can only draw on who you are and what you’ve seen and what’s a part of you. It reflects a part of your person. If I have to dress up for the evening, I always start with a suit and tie, but before I leave the house, already after one glass of wine, I have my scarf on my shoulders and the tie is gone. [Laughs] I have to accept myself, I’m afraid! You can only be who you are. I always start with the fantasy of this immaculate man because to have such reserved elegance is quite beautiful, but in the end you’re not interested in the man being handsome. You’re much more interested in the man being himself. That’s sexier in every possible way. You don’t want a man to stand in front of a mirror more than a woman. The sexiness is only a reflection of what he is. That’s why he should never hide himself or cover himself in too many designer clothes. [Laughs]
Sven Schumann — Your womenswear has often shown quite masculine elements. Are you interested in your menswear appealing to women as well?
Haider Ackermann — I think many women have been buying men’s clothes. There’s always a sexuality to a woman wearing men’s clothes. You have the feeling that she just left the house at five o’clock in the morning and took his clothes. So there’s something — to me — very sexual about it. I don’t know. I might be wrong. I like it; there’s a kind of timelessness and decadence about it, which is nice.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Does this intimacy that comes with a woman wearing a man’s clothes work the other way around as well?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I have a friend who is always wearing his girlfriend’s pullovers, and the pullovers are too tight and the sleeves are too short, but I have to admit that it gives him this kind of English rock attitude. It’s surprising because that guy is totally not in that style otherwise; he just likes to have her smell around. But yeah, it can add to the man’s sensitivity and the man’s feminine side if he can embrace it. So sometimes, it can have something. Not always, though.
Sven Schumann — Do you think that your woman has changed since you started doing menswear?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I grew a lot with my woman by doing men’s because I started to become much more focused on the clothes, on the pieces themselves. I tried to make the woman less twisted and tormented than she used to be when I would wrap her and drape her. She’s becoming more simplistic, which is a kind of freedom and which is more generous, I think.
SVEN SCHUMANN — You once said that designing is like writing a book, and each collection is a new chapter. Are you writing a different book for men than for women, or is it still just a different chapter of the same book?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I think the book might be slightly different. In women’s, there are many different roads and crossroads that you have to twist around, while the men’s is a much easier path. The story is much easier to read, I guess. It’s closer to me. There is more joy in drawing a men’s collection than a women’s, in a sense. I try to understand women, and at the end of the day I never will. That’s the beauty of it: to take that road and to try to have this search for beauty. You might not end there, but the road you took is quite beautiful in itself.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Do you dream about men in the same way that you dream about women?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I don’t dream about men! [Laughs] I dream about women. I fantasize about women, but strangely I don’t dream or fantasize about men at all because for me it’s very grounded, very close to reality. It’s very close to what I would like men to wear on the street on a daily basis, so it doesn’t leave much room for fantasy. Of course one still gets inspired, though.
Sven Schumann — What inspired you for the Spring/Summer 2015 collection?
Haider Ackermann — All these old men who have this total sense of freedom. It could be film stars or rock stars or whoever, but it was this total kind of freedom to dress however they want, not to be scared about any judgment. They can even be feminine. When you look at people like Iggy Pop, there is something very ambiguous about what they’re wearing or what they’re doing. All the action of putting their clothes together is not dictated at all by fashion, and it’s that sense of freedom that I wanted to express.
SVEN SCHUMANN — My favorite people to interview are men over the age of 60 because they seem to be more honest and don’t really give a fuck anymore.
HAIDER ACKERMANN — Exactly, they can do whatever they want! We are more scared. We would not pronounce ourselves so easily. We have to be careful. It sounds like a relief when you talk to them. But there are also some women like that. I have my friend Betty Catroux, who used to be Yves Saint Laurent’s muse.
Sven Schumann — I have met her before.
HAIDER ACKERMANN — So you know what I mean. She is beyond fantastic! She speaks like a man! Those people have a sense of freedom to say whatever they want to say, and it gives you the feeling you can, too. All of that inspired me, whether it was writers, singers, rock stars, film, whatever. They have this freedom, and that was all I wanted to express in the last show. At the end of the day, we are all the same. We’re all searching for a way to escape. Perhaps designing is my kind of escape from reality and return to reality at the same time.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Where does that desire for freedom come from?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — I grew up in Africa, where we had no games to play at home. We were playing outside because the weather was so beautiful; we were wandering the woods; we were wandering the dunes; we were always wandering around outside and there was no danger. You had this total sense of freedom as a child, to be very wild and to go wherever you wanted to go. Then we moved to Holland when I was 12 years old, and suddenly, life was more restricted. There were cars; there was traffic; there was this whole environment where I had to belong to a certain kind of bourgeoisie. I felt like a prisoner compared with what I was used to as a child. So the word “freedom” is a very big word for me. I always had this desire when I was young to just escape and be wherever I wanted to be without any judgment.
SVEN SCHUMANN — Do you have that kind of freedom in your life now?
HAIDER ACKERMANN — All the traveling that I did growing up and over the years gave me a sense of freedom, the sense that I could be anywhere, so I’m not afraid. There’s no fear in there. But in my daily life, freedom, I don’t know where to find it! Having to run your own operation is not the freest thing, and adding menswear to the collection doesn’t make me any freer, trust me!
[Table of contents]
Kim GordonRead the article
John ArmlederRead the article
Celia HemptonRead the article
Despacio Sound SystemRead the article
Allegria TorassaRead the article
Andra UrsutaRead the article
Lizzi BougatsosRead the article
Rita AckermannRead the article
Felix BurrichterRead the article
Pierre HardyRead the article
Marianne VitaleRead the article
Michael SailstorferRead the article
Harmony KorineRead the article
John BarlowRead the article
Kaari UpsonRead the article
Langley FoxRead the article
The Spring/Summer 2015 collectionsRead the article
by Glenn O’Brien
by Olivier Zahm and Alexis Dahan
Pierre BanchereauRead the article
Emily SundbladRead the article
by Olivier Zahm
by Sven Schumann
by Olivier Zahm
by Brianna Capozzi
by Anders Edström
by Camille Bidault-Waddington
by Bella Howard
by Robi Rodriguez
by Philippe Jarrigeon
by Richard Kern
by Benoit Peverelli
Dance of the Darkness
by Benoit Peverelli
Best of Men’s Fashion
by Andreas Larsson
Choux de Créteil
by Gianni Oprandi
Rick Owens and Hood By Air
by Olivier Zahm
Claude Rutault and Lawrence Weiner
by Alexis Dahan
by Olivier Zahm
Iceberg Downtown Gallery
by Olivier Zahm and Gianni Oprandi
by Marilyn Minter
Emporio Armani / Jacquemus collections Spring / Summer 2015
by Cécile Bortoletti
by Olivier Zahm
by Olivier Zahm and Donatien Grau
Hugo Boss Spring / Summer 2015 Collection at the Villa Savoye
photography by Olivier Zahm
by Olivier Zahm and Stéphane Feugère with Noise Paintings, a portfolio by Kim Gordon
by Toiletpaper / Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari
FESPA Digital/Fruit Logistica, 2012
by Wolfgang Tillmans