Unveiling A: Ann Demeulemeester’s Fragrance Journey

Introduction: A Whiff of Mystery

There’s a certain allure to mystery, isn’t there? It tantalizes the senses, beckoning us to explore further, to delve into the unknown. Such is the essence of “A,” the enigmatic fragrance crafted by Ann Demeulemeester. With its intricate blend of spices and citruses, it begins as a playful dance, teasing the senses with notes of clove, cumin, cinnamon, lemon, and bergamot. But as the aroma unfolds, it takes on a hypnotic quality, drawing you in with the intoxicating embrace of May rose, jasmine, and leather infused with birch oil. And the finale? It’s nothing short of spectacular, with patchouli, vetiver, and sandalwood leaving behind a trail of intrigue. If ever you’ve pondered the scent of freedom, this might just be the answer. Known simply as “A,” this fragrance is Ann Demeulemeester’s inaugural olfactory creation, a culmination of her creative vision and a testament to her enduring legacy.

Chapter 1: The Genesis of A

It’s been a decade since Ann Demeulemeester bid farewell to her eponymous fashion label, marking the end of a nearly three-decade-long career in the industry. Her departure was a deliberate choice, a conscious decision to seek new avenues of creative expression. As one of the revered figures of the fashion world, Demeulemeester rose to prominence in 1986 as part of the legendary “Antwerp Six,” a group of avant-garde designers who challenged the conventions of fashion. Yet, despite her illustrious career, there was always one dream she had yet to fulfill—a venture into the world of fragrance. “It’s quite simple: I was ready, I knew exactly what I wanted,” she shares over the phone. “I am happy and excited because it was a dream I never could fulfill. Not only did I work like a horse, from morning till night, with no time to think beyond the next collection, but I also find it hard to delegate. My problem is that I always want to be in control. Besides, I thought someone would knock on my door and say, ‘Hey, shall we make a perfume together?’ But it never happened.”

Chapter 2: A New Chapter Unfolds

Fast forward to 2020, when Italian magnate Claudio Antonioli acquired the Ann Demeulemeester brand as part of his new venture, Dreamers Factory, following the sale of the New Guards Group conglomerate to Farfetch for 600 million euros. The acquisition included the intellectual property, rights to the name, as well as the archive of collections, the flagship store in Antwerp, and even the showroom in Paris. However, what Antonioli couldn’t acquire was the designer herself. “He politely insisted that I return, but my chapter in fashion is closed. It’s another matter if I’m interested in participating occasionally in other enriching adventures for the brand, because it’s good for them and for me. That’s when he threw down the gauntlet, asking if I would be willing to create a fragrance. How could I refuse?” she recounts.

Chapter 3: Crafting A Fragrance

Demeulemeester explains that Antonioli gave her carte blanche, allowing her the freedom to explore her creativity while prioritizing her vision. “It’s not just another project, using my name as mere commercial support, but rather a creative exercise that involves and appeals to me personally,” she asserts. The interior of the packaging—a white canvas, reminiscent of the brand’s signature packaging—features a small portrait of her, photographed by her husband, Patrick Robyn, in 1992. The graphic design is the work of her son, Victor Robyn. Even the installation that unveiled the fragrance to the world in the Antwerp boutique last September was a family affair. “I couldn’t be more committed. Although I didn’t spend much time in the lab, I worked closely with Italian perfumers in composing the formula,” she says. “I have my knowledge. Years ago, I studied all kinds of ingredients at the Osmothèque in Versailles [the world’s largest scent archive] and spent time in Grasse, the French perfume capital. But the truth is, I’ve mostly relied on instinct.” She emphasizes the organic nature of the ingredients, noting, “I kept asking myself where the fascination for a scent lies, what can be intriguing, sensual, or seductive. And it turns out, most of them are found in nature. Many of them I recognize from my own garden. I wanted a wake-up call like, ‘Hey, this smell is familiar,’ but one that immediately pulls you into the heart of the perfume, with the duality, the luminosity of May rose and jasmine contrasting with leather, vetiver, and patchouli leading to a dark territory.”

Chapter 4: The Essence of A

Identified with a certain poetic romanticism and punk intellectualism, Demeulemeester’s aesthetic has always been shrouded in darkness. A is the distillation of that gothic-expressive style, bottled like a genie in a thick glass column that, depending on how you look at it, is all light or shadow. “Inside, there is nature. Outside, culture,” she muses. Genderless. “I just hope I’ve created something new, something that didn’t exist before. That was my goal,” the creator admits, also aware of the timeliness of the launch. “It may seem strange because the brand has just gone through a complicated period of creative change. It’s as if it needed to draw on me again to find its way.” As for the abrupt departure of Ludovic de Saint Sernin in May (less than a year as creative director), she prefers not to comment. “The only thing I can say is that if something doesn’t work, it’s better to stop. Anyway, it’s something that doesn’t concern me,” she concludes. “I’ve already dedicated 40 years of my life to fashion. I think it’s time I’m allowed to do something else.”

Conclusion: The Fragrant Legacy of Ann Demeulemeester

In the realm of fashion, Ann Demeulemeester is a legend—a visionary whose influence transcends trends and seasons. With the launch of “A,” she adds a new dimension to her legacy, inviting us to experience her world through the olfactory senses. It’s a fragrance that defies categorization, blurring the lines between light and shadow, nature and culture. In each whiff, there’s a story waiting to be told, a journey into the heart of creativity. And as Demeulemeester embarks on this new chapter of her career, we can’t help but wonder what other adventures lie ahead. For now, we’ll let the scent of “A” linger in the air, a reminder of the indelible mark she has left on the world of fashion and beyond.