Tank : Andre Walker
New York’s ultimate cult designer, Andre Walker, returns to centre stage with a new line for Dover Street Market
In the fashion business for almost four decades, Andre Walker has worn many hats: teen designer, consultant, cult-magazine publisher and now fashion’s comeback kid. With each reincarnation, Walker, now 47, has shown a talent for capturing the zeitgeist. He was first drawn to the industry through his Jamaican mother, a hairdresser and cabaret artist. “My mum loved to tour Europe with my dad, and she would bring my sister and me the most outrageous shoes and clothing back from her travels,” he says. “I was five years old when I fell in love with oxblood leather. This gave me a taste for European designers and I remember urgently wanting to have my own collection.”
As a teenager in New York during the 1980s, Walker was a regular on the downtown club scene. “It was this incredible melting pot of middle-aged poseurs, spoiled teenagers, 1980s affluence and art-world fixtures,” he says. “Everyone knew everyone and looks were the currency of the time.” With the help of his club friends, he staged his first show at the age of 15 at the Oasis nightclub, styling them in creations that he had already been selling outside his mother’s salon. “I grabbed my friends from the Roxy and the Danceteria,” he recalls. “I helped them with their hair and make-up and dressed them in these slashed and frayed T-shirts that I made into dresses, and cut open Chinese slippers laced up with leather for a punk-New Romantic look.”
His DIY-inspired designs were praised by Bill Cunningham, Kim Hastreiter and Patricia Field, who jointly anointed him fashion’s latest wunderkind. “I was about 15,” he remembers, “and buzzing with these seasoned adults who entertained my presence and supported my naive and wildly enthusiastic embrace of club-culture aesthetics.”
Walker had his own label and became known for his irregularly shaped, avant-garde apparel, bordering on science fictive. But the label’s success didn’t last, and he moved to Paris to consult for Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones, and later publishedTiwimuta, a high-concept fashion magazine. But last year Walker returned with his own label, for an exclusive capsule collection for the Comme des Garçons-owned Dover Street Market.
“Kim Jones introduced me to Adrian Joffe [husband of Rei Kawakubo] and he introduced me to Rei,” he says. “They invited me to work on a collection for the opening of Dover Street Market New York.” Now available from additional stockists, Walker’s artistic vision for autumn/winter 2015 includes optical mohair jumpers with matching hats and strapless dresses with hoods growing out of the back. The collection is steeped in vintage references but still captures Walker’s sense of the contemporary. Back in the spotlight, once again, he knows, “I can take none of this for granted.”