Society

Haider Ackermann: Fashion’s Next Superstar?

Colombian-born French designer Haider Ackermann may replace John Galliano at Dior, or take over at Givenchy. The publicity-shy 40-year-old’s approach? Pure instinct.

Lady Gaga wears Ackermann
Lady Gaga wears Ackermann

By Joël Morio

PARIS -- During the Paris Fashion Week, which ended on March 9, Haider Ackermann's name was on everyone's lips. He was rumored to be on the shortlist of designers who could replace John Galliano, Dior's erstwhile artistic director (forced out this month over his anti-Semitic insults caught on videotape).

Subsequent rumors have suggested that Italian designer Ricardo Tisci has been picked for the Dior job, and that Ackermann may replace him at his current fashion house Givenchy. Still, Dior says it hasn't yet made a decision.

Ever since Karl Lagerfeld said of Ackermann that he was "the only one who could replace me at Chanel," the 40-year-old has been in the spotlight. His collections are praised by the fashion world, and he just made the cover of US Vogue. "It is very unsettling to be in the limelight when you like being in the shadows," he says. "It's nice to feel desired, it gives you strength but it's also frightening."

Contradictions

The Ackermann style is a mix of flowing cuts and precise tailoring, of order and disorder. These contradictions can be explained by the personal story of this designer with the hobo look of messy hair and piercing, dark eyes behind oval glasses. "My collections are reflections of my own emotions. I was influenced by my past, but now I feel less melancholic, drawn to the future," he says.

Ackermann is French but was born in Santa Fe de Bogota in Colombia. He grew up between Africa and Europe. From his time in Africa, Ackermann has kept a fascination for draping. "Tuareg people in the African desert, Indian women who dress with five to six meters of fabric, Tibetan monks, everywhere in the world, people drape themselves in fabric. Only in the West do we like to make things complicated," he says.

For the coming winter, he wanted to play with contrasting fabrics: the dryness of boiled white wool with the sensuality of leather or silk, the shine of sequins. He drew long kimono-like velvet or silk coats with leather hems. He works delicately on drapes and knots for dresses that show off the shoulders, the lower back or the curve of a hip. He majestically underlines the waist with thick Japanese obi-style leather belts. Although black, grey and white dominate, he adds in touches of emerald green and dark blue.

Flemish rigor

The designer, who lived in Antwerp where he studied at the famous school of fine arts, was influenced by Flemish rigor and encouraged by Belgian designer Raf Simons. "Coming from Africa and arriving in this dark grey light was a real shock. I like the Antwerp style, it respects women, emphasizes discretion, doesn't go for decoration," he says.

Each collection is an extension of the previous one: "I re-work one or two silhouettes and I watch DVDs of previous show to try to understand what worked and what didn't." This season, there was even more pressure after the huge success of his Summer 2011 collection.

Ackermann has dealt calmly with this newfound celebrity. "For the very first time, I enjoyed coming out on the catwalk at the end of my show," he says. He is serene about the future, although he works on "instinct, without planning things." He wants to evolve at his own rhythm. In order to concentrate fully on the women's collection he dropped his men's line after the June 2010 show, despite it being a huge success around the world.

Ackerman remains silent regarding a possible future at Dior or Givenchy, but he's happy to talk about the idea of a partnership with another brand. "The rules of another brand would help me express a new form of elegance, higher than mine, more luxurious, it's a fantasy of mine," he admits. We'll know soon if his dream will come true.

Read the original article in French

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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