To the sound of a brewing sandstorm and on a thin layer of golden sand, Morphosis' darling designer Ann Demeulemeester sent an army of fragile models down the catwalk wearing uniforms in worn hues, featuring jackets and long coats, both with tuxedo collars, and often with oversized buttons. The silhouette was long, slim and draped -as it often is at AD's shows- but what everyone noted as new was the distinct merger of fabrics. The setting was enhanced by the desolate wind that howled on the soundtrack and German singer Nico's equally desolate "Desertshore" (1970). Ann Demeulemeester was reluctant to acknowledge the 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud's self-exile in Africa as a major influence on her collection because she felt literalizing the mood would weaken its impact, but she needn't have worried. Even without this backstory, what came across was the idea of cultures interweaving : the cut and cloth of European clothes being slowly infected by orientalism and intangible mystery. The idea was obvious in the sheer silk tulle smocks that veiled almost everything. The formal shawl-collared jackets and waistcoats layered over tunics and britches were lifted straight from a poet-recently-turned-desert-nomad's wardrobe. Maybe that's why the clothes had a tougher edge than the label's usual poetic romanticism. "Beauty is our weapon", Ann Demeulemeester's husband Patrick Robyn declared after the show. Arthur Rimbaud himself was, after all, a lover and a fighter. The desert, indeed, long adopted by fans of the Gothic aesthetics as a dry and barren metaphor for the loneliness and complexity of the human condition, is another provider for dark romanticism. It worked wonders for Ann Demeulemeester. Her mix of Victorian military with formal suiting multi-layered over loose shirts, leather sandals and unlaced boots gave the impression of a dark Robinson Crusoe or ship-wrecked deckhands gathering for dinner, faded black flowers pinched into their button holes. For scuffed castaways, bohemian vagabonds and urban wayfarers, plus moi. Dark dreams and sweet voyages !