Anne Chapelle, picture by Monta Apsāne.

Ethics, soul, sustainability

Anne Chapelle's views on the fashion world

Ieva Laube March 2016
Anne Chapelle, one of Belgium’s leading fashion management experts, as well as the CEO and owner of Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackermann, has steadily transformed both Belgian brands into progressive, established entities, while continuously nurturing and guiding young talent into the realm of fashion. Often enough she has been named the godmother of the fashion business, due mostly to her grit and creed – defending the freedom of the designer’s mind and respecting creativity in the pure sense of the word. DAMN° met with her during the Fashion Talks in Antwerp, to learn of her views on the fashion world.
DAMN°: In being closely tied to the industry, what promising emerging tendencies have you noticed?
Anne Chapelle: Every nation is starting to appreciate its own history, which will once again trigger us to be different from one another. And when we are different, we’re attracted to each other. The only thing I would like is for everybody to try to care a little bit more about other human beings, and for the situation with those who help me build my brand to be good, convenient, and honest.
DAMN°: Even though you witness promising new developments, you’ve mentioned that you consider the current state of the fashion industry to be ‘very dark’.
A.C.: It’s very dark because there’s little creativity and a lot of copying. We lack personalities, inventiveness, dreams. It’s all mainstream – boring. And when the consumer gets bored, that affects the designers. And it’s all because people are lazy; they think that fashion is easy and that it’s a fast way to gain money.
DAMN°: So where does the fashion business start?
A.C.: Image building. Always! Who are you as a designer? And who is the person you see wearing your clothes? Then you choose the market. You don’t need to push anything because if you’re sustainable, success will come by itself. It’s a matter of maintaining your values. You have to win the customer’s trust. They have to be able to read the price in a designer’s creation, the fabric, the quality…
DAMN°: You are very skilled at seeing the artistic strength and the market value of fashion designers. Many of them could use your help to become a brand. Who succeeds to convince you, the ones with a business plan?
A.C.: No, I will make the business plan myself. First I need to have chemistry with them, to see their soul and feel that it’s true, to understand how their brain works. To see that there is a longer-term vision when they speak, when they draw. And if I trust the hand and the eyes, I can invest.
DAMN°: What is the most common stumbling block for fashion newcomers? Is it the business–oriented thinking?
A.C.: No, it’s ethics; the criteria of the value chain. Their confrontation with reality after leaving school is very harsh. Good work is expensive, so they compromise in order to stay in the market. And what is the compromise? Cheap labour! Instead of choosing to look at themselves and stand on their own two feet, they choose to compromise on commercialism, and that’s wrong.