Endorsed is our ongoing series in which we ask our favourite people to tell us about their favourite people. Whether established icons or nascent talent, these are the influences behind the influencers, the inspirations behind the inspired.
Sébastien Meunier on Fassbinder’s Querelle
When Sébastien Meunier thinks about the Port of Antwerp he sees a world of transience and intrigue, where dockers, fishermen and ferry passengers all converge on their routes to somewhere. This was the set for Ann Demeulemeester SS20, and at the heart of it all was a sailor. Not just any sailor – Meunier looked to Querelle, the magnetic Belgian figure dreamt up by Jean Genet and brought to the screen by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in 1982. It was Fassbinder ’s supercharged vision of sex and violence in the port town of Brest that inspired this collection’s sensuality, with hoards of buttons and detachable bits hinting at states of undress.
A point of inspiration with roots, tension is the name of the game in Meunier ’s role at Ann Demeulemeester. As artistic director – the position he has held since Demeulemeester handed him the reins in 2013 – he pairs the poetic codes of the cult brand with his tendency to push things harder. It ’s romance and sexuality, through a kaleidoscopic lens of stories and references. Here, Meuiner reflects on the influence of Fassbinder’s queer epic, Querelle.
“Recently I have focussed a lot on Belgian stories and they have been an influence on my collections for Ann Demeulemeester. [For SS20] I wanted to speak about the seashore of Belgium, the Port of Antwerp, the dockers, the sailors. Because it’s an important port and it’s had lots of different kinds of people coming from the sea for a long time, so it was interesting to think about the code of sailors and dockers and so on.
My angle was with a focus on Querelle by Fassbinder, as I’m really touched by this movie. I’m interested to speak about the Antwerp culture and I try to give my French vision of it, how I perceive it. I think it’s interesting that Ann Demeulemeester was always inspired by poetry and song and had a lot of references from American culture, like Patti Smith. So there was this, but there was still this deeply Flemish vibe to her collections. Whereas I’m a bit the opposite, I’m French and in designing here I try to show how I understand the Flemish culture.
“That’s the thing with sailors, they leave and they might not come back, and there’s a romanticism in this which is very deep.”
Always with Fassbinder it’s a bit kitsch and there’s something very colourful and dramatically exaggerated, it’s more like a theatre scene than a real scene and I like this because it feels more like a dream than reality. Specifically in this film, the guy Querelle is so beautiful that he creates all this sexual tension around him and provokes some fights, and there’s this tension between violence and sexuality. Everyone desires him and I think it’s fascinating. So there were all different kinds of Querelle in the collection, all different kinds of guys coming from the sea, or leaving for the sea. That’s the thing with sailors, they leave and they might not come back, and there’s a romanticism in this which is very deep. So it’s this play between something that is very real and almost like a dream. For me it was a way not to do too much of a classic sailor collection [laughs], to put an angle in there that brings a more transgender vibe. Some of the sailors are more feminine, some are more masculine, we never know if they are guys or girls, or maybe they are girls becoming guys. With Querelle I could push it further because of the sexual tension inherent in the film.
“Specifically in this film, the guy Querelle is so beautiful that he creates all this sexual tension around him and provokes some fights, and there’s this tension between violence and sexuality.”
I think there’s something very animalistic in that movie, it shows how animal-like men can be. It speaks about instinct, which is fascinating and mysterious, and there is the romantic part of it – things in this Fassbinder movie are probably similar to things that really happen in the ports, it speaks about an instinct that is really true in life. It’s something that we all have, this kind of tension sometimes. This movie speaks about it within this sailor subject, but it is speaking about something more universal.”
All clothing and accessories by ANN DEMEULEMEESTER SS20.
Photography by Daniyel Lowden
Fashion by Davey Sutton
Model Aaron Shandel at Wilhelmina Models, grooming Eliot Mcqueen at D+V Management, photography assistant James Greenhalgh; digital assistant Huguette Tchiapi; fashion assistant Zac Klein