As Ann Demeulemeester's show drew to a close, it seemed the unthinkable was about to happen. The collection, shown to a sweeping, dramatic, classical score, had not a whisper (or, more appropriately, a wail) from the Belgian designer's favorite chanteuse, Patti Smith. But then the orchestra's strings fadedand the opening chords of Smith's Horses rang out.
Expecting Demeulemeester to abandon Smith would be akin to seeing her show bright, pretty florals: It's just never going to happen. She has laid claim to a dark, gothic sensibility that variously embraces military uniforms, slouchy tailoring, and raw-edged shearlings and furs mixed with tough leathers. The results tend to be of varying returns: sometimes rather wonderful, sometimes not.
This collection wasn't far from the former category. The drawbacks were the buckled straps that messily crisscrossed fur vests and dipping asymmetric skirts, and her penchant for partnering her sharp leather or ponyskin biker-style jackets with jodhpurssurely up there with jumpsuits as one of the worst things a woman can wear. This aside, there was a lot that was good: narrow-shouldered, high-collared coats that buttoned on the side and oversized blousons that were based on the trench, the volume kept under control by their low-slung belts. And there were some wonderful surprises: a flash of silver from chain mail minis layered with big sweaters and tight pants; glossy leather gauntlets whose cuffs were lavished with fur; and a color palette that strayed beyond black to include chestnut brown, soft vanilla, and winter whitethe latter at its best in a glazed-leather trenchcoat.