Ann Demeulemeester said her collection was about 'Abstraction', but it was equally about fencing, the military, and perhaps most of all about her menswear shown back in June. The latter should surprise no-one - Demeulemeester is a master of androgyny, dressing girls who like boys to be girls, vice versa, et cetera, but this time the crossover was more explicit than usual. Her S/S 2011 menswear was all played out in black and white, with quilting, padding, strapping and lacing filched from fencing gear. All that turned up in her womenswear, an entirely monochrome experience - including that abstraction, which ended up as a black/white Expressionist print splashed across fabrics as mild relief from block (non) colour.
That said, the message this time managed to be true to Demeulemeester's singular style, while nodding towards current trends. She was never going to jump on the peasant or acid-hue bandwagons, but there's been a sporty undercurrent to the shows so far, and Demeulemeester caught onto that. Those fencing references became more explicit as the show developed, fabric quilting and bands spiralling around the body, visors reinvented as chainmail veils. There was also neat use of anorak nylon that felt refreshing and new, exploding in pleated layers under cropped jackets, mirrored in washed leather chopped into short shapes that fused militia with sadomasochist harnessing. Those worked well in wool, too, boleros layered over side-buttoned tunics and cropped trousers for a new take on the three-piece suit.
Demeulemeester's big skirt shape was an odd one: carved out along one leg to leave the right side crotch-high and the left trailing along the ground. That topsy-turvy hem is something we've seen elsewhere, expressive of a continuing confusion over long versus short. Demeulemeester's version, while pushing each to their illogical extreme, by no means resolved the argument. Sometimes they looked great (in chiffon or silk jersey), sometimes they didn't (that washed leather looked a little lumpen), but there were certainly too many of them - especially when they distracted attention from the superb tailoring above the waist, in what amounted to one of Demeulemeester's best and most accessible collections for a good few seasons.