Nicki Minaj didn't wear Haider Ackermann to the designer's Fall/Winter 2017 show in Paris on Saturday, but the centerpiece of her outfit - an asymmetrically-cut blazer that left her left breast fully exposed - matched the spirit of the man's work, if not its subtlety.
Ackermann's creations teem with an audacious sensuality that has made him a favorite among celebrities with a flair for the dramatic. A fan of bold gestures and distinctive fabrics, it is no wonder 45-year-old Ackermann is adored by Tilda Swinton, who considers him a friend as much as a red carpet accomplice.
Ackermann studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp - the alma mater of legendary designers like Dries Van Noten and Martin Margiela - in the late 1990s, but left without graduating. He started his label at the behest of his friend Raf Simons and presented his first collection in Paris in 2002. His perspective shone through even in this first offering, and his star rose through the mid-aughts as he delivered collection after collection of sumptuous takes on classic shapes.
By 2010, he had allegedly turned down the chance to replace Margiela at his namesake label, and Karl Lagerfeld has claimed he would make an ideal successor at Chanel. In an era characterized by studious minimalism, Ackermann stood apart by offering rich, bright colors and swooping silhouettes that suggested motion even when on the rack. There is also a painter-like quality to his work. He uses color in expressive swipes, sourcing rich fabrics and accentuating looks with deceptively complex layering. His fluency in volume and shape recalls both Yohji Yamamoto and John Galliano, modern masters of soulful tailoring. Even Ackermann's slouchy sweatshirts (their dropped shoulders favored by Kanye West) manage to project an air of louche luxury.
It all adds up to body of work that smoulders with timeless confidence - Keith Richards would look as at home in Ackermann's wares as Kanye does. In fact, Ackermann has mentioned Keith Richards as a point of inspiration, and the two seem to share sensibilities. Much as Richards' style was informed by decades of globetrotting, the Colombian-born Ackermann spent his childhood living throughout Europe and Africa, moving frequently due to his father's work as a cartographer. Ackermanns's work is charged by a global perspective that sees him combining sartorial traditions to create fresh, distinct pieces.
On Saturday, Minaj looked on from her front row seat as Ackermann's latest work was revealed, a mostly-black parade of sexy sophistication, some streaked with gold embroidery. Alek Wek lit up the runway in an electric blue suit and Julia Nobis closed the show wearing a shaggy coat with curved, leather lapels over her otherwise nude torso. This last look was quintessential Ackermann, both refined and daring - romantic statement dressing from a legend in the making.
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