One of the most consistent fashion talents to emerge from the Antwerp Fashion Academy’s doors in the last few years is Cédric Jacquemyn. The young menswear designer’s first year collection, named “Hunting For Memories”, first hit Dazed & Confused Russia’s radar in 2008. Three collections later, Jacquemyn has built up an independent label and was featured in the Paris showroom of pioneering Antwerp-based concept store RA. Jacquemyn’s strength lies in his ability to conjure up whole worlds through carefully coloured garments in immaculate cuts and slim silhouettes – more specifically evoking the explosive and dangerous yet eerily beautiful nature of Iceland.
Acting as his main inspiration, the landscapes of Iceland – simultaneously black with volcanic residue and white with ice and snow – inform the constant duality of his work. Jacquemyn creates clothes that are futuristic and sharp but also draped and fluid: the synthesis of a masculinity that suggests both the strength and fragility of a forceful nature fleeting as in a misty dream.
Dazed Digital: You attracted a lot of praise with your first collection while still only a student at Antwerp’s Royal Academy, and now you have your own eponymous label. Do you feel there’s huge pressure on designers to be excessively productive, as has recently been a topic of discussion in the media?
Cédric Jacquemyn: I feel that there’s a big difference in fashion betweent the houses that approach clothes as merely product, and those that want to communicate a certain identity and convey a message in their collections. The first type occupies itself with pre-collections, cruise collections… just because it means more revenue.
I think if you assess those collections it’s clear that the creative strength gives way to the pressures. I really hope other designers who have something innovative and interesting to offer won’t follow this lead. I know I don’t intend to – for me, producing a collection is more than producing clothes: it’s about expressing an idea. You need time to do this, to think about themes and inspirations and develop a genuine vision, which is impossible when you have to turn out so many collections a year.
DD: Your collections all go by poetic or cryptical names. Does each collection revolve around a story or image?
Cédric Jacquemyn: My latest three collections, ‘Viðrar vel til Lofrarásá’ (literally: ‘Nice weather for air strikes’), ‘The Last Glacier’ S/S11, and 'The Last Glacier' A/W, are a continuing story. It all starts with the beauty of Iceland which lies primarily in the contrast of its landscapes. I started to wonder how I could translate the emotion and powers of that place into garments. It is a contrast between the feeling of being overpowered and in power, of fragile and aggressive, of romantic and threatening. Iceland wasn't only an inspiration for manipulating the fabric, but also for prints and colour. In the design itself I try to keep a balance between this geometrical world by putting it in contrast with a draped t-shirt.
The inspiration for ‘The Last Glacier’ grew out of a documentary I saw about Icelandic volcanoes. As they start the process of melting the glaciers, the collection signifies a mourning process and the simultaneous emergence of new beginnings. In the clothing, I wanted to express the consequences of a changing environment by translating this thought in going back to the most primitive way of turning fabric into clothing. To me, this meant knotting fabric together. Since reference to classical men’s clothing is very important to me, I took the knotting a step further by making it an essential part in the cut of the garment; the knots are a way to connect sleeves to a jacket, to make a pocket come out of the garment…
The reality of a devastating volcanic eruption was the starting point for the colour scheme. The collection starts out black, referring to volcanic ash blacking out sunlight. The collection ends in white, which is a reference to hope, nature’s victory, a new consciousness and a blank canvas.
DD: You created a video for ‘The Last Glacier’, directed by Yves De Brabander. How important is the creation of a total experience?
Cédric Jacquemyn: I’ve always worked very close together with Yves, not just to shoot the collections, but we also go through much of the inspiration process together and build the entire atmosphere around it. Our collaborations are a constant interaction, striving for the closest possible visual rendition of a collection’s mood. The communication of these visuals is an integral part of each collection.
DD: What would you say is the leitmotiv in your work? Is there a ‘Jacquemyn’ signature?
Cédric Jacquemyn: Contrast hugely informs my work, not only thematically but also in the choice of fabrics and textures. In terms of cut this shows itself in the integration of ethnic elements into classic men’s tailoring – both have equal weight in my designs. Duality and a broken identity are always present but also the simultaneous existence of two extremes is a constant element in all my collections.
DD: You are also a painter. How does that inform your fashion design?
Cédric Jacqumyn: Painting, for me, is a way of starting and finalising a collection. I don’t feel that it has a direct impact on the clothes themselves though, it is simply an element of the same inspiration stream.
DD: What type of man do you have in mind while designing?
Cédric Jacquemyn: This will probably sound incredibly abstract, but I don’t actually have an individual in mind. Perhaps it’s more the emotion a certain man would arouse in me when I see him, which I realise is a contradictory statement, as what I have in mind is usually a desolate, powerful world full of glaciers and volcanoes like the Iceland of my inspiration. So I suppose that man would be a sort of apocalyptic, Nordic wanderer...
DD: Many male fashion designers who are also Antwerp Academy alumni, are at the top of their game right now: Raf Simons, Haider Ackermann, Kris Van Assche… Are they an inspiration?
Cédric Jacquemyn: I am absolutely convinced that all of us – by which I mean all the young Antwerp Academy designers – are extremely proud to have that heritage. That being said, what inspires me the most personally at the very moment, is the group of young designers that are making their own mark in Antwerp as we speak, creating their own vision and identity. I believe the future of ‘Antwerp Fashion’ might just take a whole new form altogether and that is an incredibly exciting and inspiring idea to anticipate.
Images: © 2011 by Yves De Brabander for Cédric Jacquemyn
Model: Thiemon Sempels @ New Models Brussels
Make-up & Hair: Vina De Bondt