That’s right: the French-Colombian tailoring mastermind and former Berluti creative director Haider Ackermann, whose palpably luxurious bomber jackets, capes, and tailored gowns have made him a red carpet go-to for some of Hollywood’s most daring A-listers, has returned after a two-year runway hiatus. And in an unexpected (on paper, at least) turn of events, he’s done so in partnership with Fila, the Italian sportswear giant whose closest associations lie within the world of tennis. (Although while Ackermann’s last runway show was in Feburary 2020, he’s still kept himself somewhat busy whisking up looks for his most reliable high-profile clients, his muses Tilda Swinton and Timothée Chalamet—who can forget that backless, blood-red pantsuit Chalamet wore for the Venice Bones and All premiere?)
If that was the spirit Ackermann hoped to recreate, the organized chaos of the fashion show went some way to achieving it; a beam of white light blasted down the runway, while models walked at varying speeds, clustered together, in intentionally rhythmic slipstreams that were surprisingly satisfying to watch. It also included an impressive array of recognizable faces: Stella Maxwell, Rebecca Longendyke, Lily McMenamy, and, for the closing look, none other than Anok Yai in an optic white stretch bodysuit, a caped parka fluttering behind her.
Then, to the clothes, which despite all the other bells and whistles, made for perhaps the most unexpected facet of the show entirely. Ackermann is notoriously logo-averse; you’d be hard-pressed to find as much as a contrast-color stitch signifying himself as the creator of one of his meticulously cut jackets or razor-sharp tailored trousers. Having to overcome this fear to enter the realm of sportswear didn’t come easily to Ackermann initially. “We live in a world where it’s all about logos and branding, and as you can see, I never wear logos,” he says, pointing to his (very much logo-less) white sweater and chuckling. “But to be confronted with this, and to embrace something that is not mine, it’s a fascinating challenge.”
Ackermann is also, of course, one of fashion’s most preternaturally talented colorists—but where his palette of rich jewel tones and subdued, earthy shades has tended to dominate his collections historically, here, he opened with at least four looks in a stark, glacier white, worn with swimming caps and goggles. Copious amounts of spandex and stretch jersey followed, running the gamut from crisp neon greens and royal blues to a kaleidoscope of sherbet-hued oranges and yellows, and a particularly ravishing shade of salmon pink—as well as “Haider + Fila” logos galore. (Haider Ackermann embracing bodycon? We never thought we’d see the day.)
While they may appear unusual bedfellows on paper, probe a little deeper into Ackermann’s back catalog, and you’ll quickly notice that he’s always worn his references to sportswear on his sleeve—even if said sleeve is cut from the finest French silk. The louche glamour of his smoking jacket capes or his lavishly embroidered sweatpants reflects a designer who has always been invested in comfort and ease of wear; although, he admits, he’s never been particularly sporty. “I’ve always combined sportswear with suiting; that’s been a game I’ve been playing and flirting with in my work for a long time,” he confirms. “But I have my own rhythm and my own vision and my own choice of fabrics, and I think Fila reached out to me not to repeat what was going on already.”
It’s hardly arrogant to describe Ackermann’s clothes as noble. But with his first collection with Fila, you get the sense that’s not what he’s going for at all, anyway. “I wanted to hear the voice of the youth,” he says, gesturing to the surroundings of the nightclub in which we find ourselves. “And what’s exciting about sportswear is that it makes your heart beat faster. That’s why I accepted the invitation from Fila. It’s all about speed, excitement, energy, electricity.”