Having danced in and out of fashion’s spotlight for the last three decades, Andre Walker is a design dreamer who surfs the waves that transcend time. The latest tide sees a capsule collection take centre stage in Dover Street Market New York as a renewed freshness washes over a new generation. Dive in as we talk past, present and future.
Within the frenetic pace of Insta-wants for a growing volume of products presented on an ever-quickening conveyor belt of shows, the work of few designers escape the cycle of consumption and linger in our memory. Proclamations of wonder have been fast-forwarded to a barely audible, high pitched squeal and weary whispers of “what’s next?!” For most, notions of newness are fleeting. The vast majority of designs are born and enjoyed in their time. Forever a creative chameleon though, Andre Walker is one of the enthralling exceptions. Having confidently strode out onto the industry’s stage at the age of 15, presenting his debut collection at New York’s Oasis club, Andre enjoyed whirlwind positions at Williwear and Patrick Kelly, but ultimately acquired cult status with his own label before consulting for the likes of Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones, and publishing a tactile zine called TIWIMUTA (This Is What It Made Us Think About). Forever on the crest of tomorrow, this fashion shaman has been ushered from the shadows by Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe and is ready take us all under his spell once more.
What are the key differences between the Andre of Oasis and the Andre of today?
I listen more, and the perceptual no longer masquerades as opinion. I’m more technically aware of making clothes and I am more conscious of the obliging responsibility that coincides with being a clothing designer.
How has your awareness and understanding of the industry altered?
It’s much more ambiguous and personal than when I was a teen. Stores, designers and the distribution of clothing were so transparent and much less popular than they are now.
“I hadn’t made clothes for years - only consulting and sketching - so this sequence is whipping my ass into shape while introducing my work to a new generation.”
Individuality, subcultures and personality played a huge part in the formation/evolution/progression of clothing design. Now, technology is currently the dominant influence charged with the task of evolving clothing design and manufacturing.
Has clothing changed as a result?
The funny thing is, despite clothing having this new life with the surrounding technology, it still remains a garment - an added body accompaniment used to dress our vessels of original sin and protect from the elements. All of which would never exist if Adam and Eve contented themselves with a lack of knowledge in the first place.
How has your style endured the tech transformation?
I like things to be well-made, beautiful and eternal. However, I don’t believe that clothing is fantasy anymore. Clothing is, at best, one of the most basic utilities in every circumstance.
But it can still leave us dreaming, just as your Dover Street Market installation does. Rei and Adrian offered a new experience for you...
It was a huge honour and the result of an introduction by Kim Jones! It’s pretty wild. At the first meeting with Adrian, I felt immediately at ease for some reason. After meeting Rei, I was securely and officially in heaven.
How did you begin?
I hadn’t made clothes for years - only consulting and sketching - so this sequence is whipping my ass into shape while introducing my work to a new generation.
How does that make you feel?
The only true introduction that is valid is when newbies try on the clothes I make. The clothes hide out in plain sight until in collaboration with a real body. It’s wonderful to have a young girl like Rachel Chandler wearing a dress several times over a short period of time, it’s a poignant experience for me as a clothing designer.
“It’s wonderful that the general perception of the new work is freshness. What a wonderful blessing that old and new can co-exist.”
What makes something new in your eyes?
Newness can pertain to aesthetics, communication, business and infrastructure/formation. I feel newness is energy, departure from the expected path, uniformity and much more. My friend designer James Small calls me an “architect of time and chisel of the Gods.” I loved that!
What are your favourite club nights?
Susanne Oberbeck’s No Bra party offers my favourite type of music selection at the moment and Ladyfag’s 1111 DJs are always on. The last time I actually lost my mind on the dance floor was at SHADE, another party she does collectively.
What is your first memory of fashion?
My Mum was the first remarkable reference I noted in relation to clothing and design. I sketched a pair of her shoes at age four apparently. W magazine was the formal entity that shaped my imagination, which deeply informed my intuitive ability to respond to any task of designing clothing and formulating an aesthetic response to all work regarding this practice.
What frustrates and excite you?
I’ve noticed that fashion is becoming more fictitious with the proliferation of luxury and circumstances of the trickle-down principle, fast fashion, the erosion of desire through over exposure. I’m always wishing that the clothing industry might find its way toward a less petrochemical line of production.
What would you like to see change?
That the schools can assist in getting the industrial conglomerates to divest in these infrastructures, while shifting the consciousness from purely aesthetic to something less environmentally decadent and more socially humane. I’m not a scholar and I announce these thoughts as often as I can in order to align myself with like-minded members of society. Yann Arthus Bertrand is a hero.
Finally, if you could create a new dawn for fashion, what would it look like?
It would include Jesus, the shredding of iniquity, and the heralding of humanity as a reference in place of the coagulant, sticky narcissism that currently informs it. That’s what I would consider newness at this stage of the game.