As Dover Street Market New York opens its doors, a new generation can discover the work of Andre Walker. As the Brooklyn-based designer turned fashion artist comes out of self imposed eponymous exile, Stuart Brumfitt quizzes him on his past, present and future.
Since his last solo collection in Paris back in March 2001, Andre Walker has consulted for Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones, created his own magazine and done lots of cycling. With the opening of New York’s Dover Street Market this weekend, he is back as a stand-alone designer, with a new in-store section for his mostly womenswear collection. i-D finds out what convinced him to come out of solo retirement, and quizzes him on his clubbing and rollerskating past.
What drew you back into designing your own collection?
I was invited by Rei (Kawakubo) and Adrien (Joffe) to do something for Dover Street, but it was really my friend Kim Jones who suggested I contact them. I’m really delighted. Adrian is an amazing example of a businessman. He’s a creative person’s dream.
Did they give you total free rein for your collection?
Adrian’s extremely forgiving in his approach, so there’s no way for you to go wrong. No boundaries are set. He deals with people on an individual basis, not as factions or templates or strains.
You were quoted recently saying you were nervous about showing again…
I was nervous about five or six weeks ago, but I’m not now. Now I’m just busy! I have to admit that I didn’t even realise that Adrian was giving me my own store until a month and a half ago!
Yeah, it’s a station I have to manage within the boutique. I’m in charge of the merchandise and the way that it looks.
You’ve unwittingly opened your own shop.
Yeah, it’s wild to be going straight to rack. It just dawned on me that people are going to have the opportunity to buy my clothes again. I’m doing women’s and one unisex piece so far, and I’m very happy about that. There will be more unisex things coming in and some men’s shirts and t-shirts.
Coming back to making your own collection, do you feel like you have a certain style that has endured, or is this a break from your past work?
I like things to be well-made and to be beautiful and eternal. The clothes that I’ve been making since I was a teenager have evolved a lot, but there’s always something wrong with what I make.
Can you describe this collection?
The fabrics are very experimental. There’s threaded taffeta, there are quilted silks, there are humble fabrics as well, like sportswear jerseys. It’s very spontaneously chosen. The colours are all over the place. There are lots of brights, lots of neutrals, lots of everything. My clothes have volume and an ease about them somehow. I’m not really into structured clothes.
Why did you stop showing in 2001?
I just hit a hump and I couldn’t produce the collections any more. That last collection was preceded by a disastrous spring summer collection where a Hong Kong store didn’t pay and we only had enough money to do a runway show for the fall. Then I just had to face facts and chill out for a minute.
And you went on to consult for Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones.
Absolutely. Marc actually gave me the strength to continue to work, because he was so supportive of my creativity. We met each other officially in Paris, but we knew each other and smiled and each other in New York before. When we met properly in Paris in ’97, he was starting to do Vuitton, and then by the time ’98 came round, we were working together. It happened so effortlessly. It’s kind of like how I met Kim Jones too – my good friend [stylist] Karen Binns from London introduced me to Kim. It’s always happened that way for me.
What did you work on with Kim?
I did quite a few Kim Jones shows in Paris with him. He’s amazing. He’s a crazy person who always ends up finding my garments from the 1980s. It’s nuts! I’m like, “How do you find this stuff?” He’s just a fanatic. I love what Kim’s done – he’s really proven himself at Vuitton. Do you think the club scene helped you fall into the fashion scene? Oh yes, seeing people like Stephen Jones, Cool Lady Blue, Visage, Christos Tolera, Princess Julia and even different generations of people as well. I’ve been running around since 1982. You just have to keep your ears and your eyes open. If you’re not curious, it’s just not for you.
Can we talk about rollerskating? I hear you were really into it when you were younger.
I was a rollerskating fanatic! I’ve been on my skates since I was 11 years old. I’m always on a bicycle now - I have a bike in Paris, London and New York – but I would rollerskate from Canarsie in Brooklyn to the city. My teen summers were amazing. I’d just get lost on my skates all over.
Can you do any tricks?
No, I’m an old person now.
But could you as a kid?
Oh my gosh! Forget it! I would be rollerskating backwards for miles. Like top speed. It was so funny. Now I love biking and travelling and chilling. I’m continuing on this wild journey that I started years ago. It’s amazing that’s it’s been allowed to continue like this, and I didn’t even ask for it! That’s lovely circumstance.