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by Alexander Azar
Cedric Jacquemyn’s darkly romantic menswear aesthetic and architectural silhouettes exude avant-garde fashion. Typically, the avant-garde of fashion exists between two perpendicular worlds: One is world of innovation through disregard of convention, and another is a world of consumerism, which often parallels a world of convention. This internal contradiction within avant-garde fashion forces designers to compromise the artistic value of their collections to meet the commercial needs of a brand. However, Cedric Jacquemyn does not fall victim to this compromise. The avant-garde label innovates within the realm of dark fashion through a disregard for conventional commercialism and an unparalleled attention to craftsmanship and fabrics, and tells a story in each collection through their detailing.
Well before launching his eponymous brand in 2011, Cedric was captivated by the nonconformism of Ann Demeulemeester. Her pieces – which shifted a paradigm within fashion – showed Jacquemyn the potential of fashion as an art form. When he was eighteen, Jacquemyn began his education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Demeulemeester’s Alma Mater), where he graduated in 2010. At the Royal Academy, Jacquemyn gained experience in avant garde thinking and gained a conceptual understanding of garment construction. However, Jacquemyn gained much more than just an educational experience during his time at the Royal Academy. It was while studying there that he met his partner Yves de Brabander.
In the late 90s, Yves de Brabander graduated cum laude in photography from Karel de Grote University College in Antwerp. De Brabander’s photography draws inspiration from many big American snapshot photographers, such as Larry Clark. His photographs evoke emotion through a minimalist attention to detail. De Brabander also regularly photographs men both dressed and in the nude. However, it was not until he attended his first Raf Simons show that his interest in fashion flourished. He began to draw parallels between fashion and photography as art forms.
Photos by Yves de Brabander From right to left: “long south ringroad, Iceland” (2009) – “Dead mother” (2012) – “Dorian” (2012)
Before Jacquemyn graduated from the Royal Academy, de Brabander and Jacquemyn began dating. Their relationship grew throughout Jacquemyn’s time in school, and they began working closer. After Jacquemyn’s graduation, he and de Brabander began working on their first collection together. Jacquemyn focused on the designs, while de Brabander managed the business aspects and the visual identity of the collection.
The first Cedric Jacquemyn collection was released during FW11 Paris Fashion Week. This collection was inspired by Jacquemyn’s travels to Iceland, and the paradox between natures power and fragility: To destroy and to create. This collection discussed the notion of longevity of objects, and highlighted the glacier crisis.
Both Jacquemyn and de Brabander were very young at the time, and were not particularly familiar with the fashion industry. Nonetheless, the fashion market was less saturated at the time, and a few people came to see the collection, which received highly positive feedback.
Cedric Jacquemyn Season 1
The next Cedric Jacquemyn collections continued the first season’s theme of extinction and focuses now more on the loss of tribal culture, their beliefs, heritage and rituals. (SS13 to FW15) Jacquemyn did so through researching ethnic garments. The tribal reference is woven through the collection from garment construction to the use of bark cloth from Uganda ( Unesco world heritage). Jacquemyn argues ethnic garments have a different DNA, they are constructed through a natural process in terms of thinking about how a fabric can be melded into a garment.
Hence, the next collection featured many kimono references, the use of selfedge, handloomed fabrics from the Himalaya;” a product of a conversation between tailoring and fabric.”
According to Jacquemyn and de Brabander, after the first few collections, the brand stepped away from avant-garde streetwear production, and developed more of a classical feel. While they both felt it was commercially necessary to produce streetwear at the brand’s launch, they began to see that those pieces did not match their honed in vision of the brand. As the designers aged, so did the maturity of the designs. Cedric Jacquemyn began producing more formal pieces while enhancing the attention to detail that is so heavily imbedded within the label. It became less about producing what “we thought people wanted,” and more about producing “what we felt was honest to our artistic vision.”
Much of Cedric Jacquemyn’s artistic vision is centered on fabrics. The label plays with the idea of natural form through their fabric selection process. In their more recent collections, de Brabander and Jacquemyn begin their design process by selecting the textiles they hope to work with, focusing on balancing their weight drape and structure.
Jacquemyn, views fabric as a primary communication tool to convey the emotion within a collection. He then designs each garment based on his selected fabrics. Every textile will fold and flow differently, so the innate properties of the fabric will often determine which garment can be formed. This process allows for the clothing to drape beautifully over a human body, and creates a natural look.
Cedric Jacquemyn - Seasons 2015-2017
The label’s attention to detail, especially with regards to the tailoring and textile selection, makes each garment the brand produces spectacular. For this reason, the brand tends to opt for a monochromatically black color scheme. When colors are featured in a collection, they are used very intently to provide contrast to the black or to obtain a specific emotion from the viewer.
For example, Jacquemyn previously used earth tones to relate the collection to the natural world. However, Jacquemyn predominantly prefers black cloth because he believes that black is a neutral color – like a blank canvas. By producing primarily black clothing, people pay more attention to the subtleties within each piece, such as its texture and construction.
Because of this emphasis, Cedric Jacquemyn often has much greater in-store sales than online. Although big logos tend to generate quick and lucrative online sales, minimal detail-oriented silhouettes oftentimes go undiscovered online. While in store, it is possible to recognize the beauty of the construction and the variances between black fabrics. When discussing purchasing garments online, Jacquemyn said, “It’s a weird concept to buy it from a picture, because a garment is about how it fits, feels, and how a fabric moves.” Considering how meticulously chosen each textile is, customers find it very valuable to feel and interact with the clothing before purchasing it. The label’s garments are created as an individualist art form, and with online retail, as Jacquemyn puts it himself, “you lose this kind of personal touch.”
Cedric Jacquemyn’s S/S 18 collection was dubbed GEWOFERNHEIT, after an essay by Martin Heidegger. Gewofernheit (Translate to “throwness”) is a concept that describes how humans are thrown into the world and struggle to find a way to exist. Jacquemyn also related the concept to the refugee crisis in Europe: After refugees escape war, they are tossed into a new country without little assistance in finding work, housing, and essentially a new life. Located in Antwerp, a major historical port-city, once housing the Red Star Line, the brand also has a special connection with the refugee crisis.
The GEWOFERNHEIT collection referenced the refugee crisis through associations with the fabrics. The collection featured transparent linen blazers, which “give the illusion of things yet to come.” The half pinstriped, half solid wool trench coat gives the appearance of being turned inside out halfway. This suggests progress, a major theme within the journeys of refugees. This collection also featured sculptural copper clothing: a short jacket, an overcoat, and a pair of pants. These pieces, which were made from primarily pure copper, reference the Statue of Liberty and its motifs. These pieces subtly reference Jacquemyn’s previous use of ethnic garments, as the Statue of Liberty is a symbol for welcoming people of many ethnicities to a new world. Over time, the copper pieces are meant to oxidize, symbolizing the passage of time.
For Cedric Jacquemyn’s most recent F/W 18 collection, de Brabander and Jacquemyn felt as if their story of the GEWOFERNHEIT collection had not been finished, so it was dubbed GEWOFERNHEIT pt. II. Usually, the label will continue a collection when they feel their story has not been fully told, GEWOFERNHEIT pt. II continues the same themes from the previous collection, with a particularly heavy emphasis on the couple’s experience as young people within the fashion industry. Through this, they discuss their frustration with commercialization.
GEWOFERNHEIT pt. II displays a much darker color palette than its predecessor, with nearly every piece being black except for a couple of white shirts. Through this, he introduces contrast to the collection while making the silhouette looking more formal. Jaquemyn felt it was time to take even more distance from the current market trends and focus on his tailoring, showcasing hand tailored coats and blazers
The detailing throughout the GEWORENHEIT pt. II collection was exemplary, especially with regards to the finishes on the garments and the accessories.
Cedric Jacquemyn’s creativity, thoughtfulness, and thoroughness give the brand a timeless yet innovative look that constantly builds upon itself. Jacquemyn and de Brabander’s partnership works well because of their shared beliefs as well as their unparalleled dialogue between fabrics and tailoring. As for the future of the brand, “It’s all about here and now,” said Jacquemyn.
Jacquemyn and de Brabander built the brand by making what they believe in, and appeal to people who appreciate their vision and they will continue to do that for years to come.