What’s better than two designer jackets? Two customised designer jackets no one else has in their wardrobe. Taking the feeling of apathy towards clothes and crafting it into desirability is exactly what Duran Lantink does at his Amsterdam studio, a sort of mad scientist lab where he cuts and pastes discount-ready grand designer labels into covetable fashion Frankensteins. With Spice Girls’ 2 Become 1 on blast, old season turns into new. This unique, anti-establishment circular process of design is what makes Duran Lantink’s one of the most interesting emerging names in fashion right now.
The Dutch designer and stylist had his first breakout moment last year, when the video for Janelle Monae’s single Pynk came out. No one was talking about the dancers or the stellar backdrop – the talk of the town were the pink-shaded vulvic trousers, straight off Lantink’s sewing machine. Soon after, Somerset House got interested too, taking the designer as part of their biennial International Fashion Showcase programme providing residency space and mentorship to global fashion talent. At the end of the summer residency, Lantink was given a special mention for his collection during the London Fashion Week showcase. The room that was presenting his space was an idea of a brand mashup, a place where discounted luxury merges into brand new full-priced wonders. The set design mimicked the idea of his clothes, with visual merchandising and branding morphing into one another. It was a collage of actual elements of flagship stores – the flooring was a mix of Balenciaga and Gucci, while the frame imitated that of Saint Laurent. “It’s a post Black Friday shop-in-shop,” he explains as we sit at a loud, street-facing terrace, his infectious laughter topping the sound of the central London bustle.
The IFC presentation was actually the first time I encountered Lantink’s work, which stood out from the other 15 designers thanks to its pure irreverence and unapologetic referencing of the industry. But it turns out it’s worth being ballsy. Since then, Lantink was shortlisted for the 2019 LVMH prize, took part of the Fashion Revolution Week through a reconstruction of his original installation inside the 50M concept store, and is now in talks with big international retailers about refreshing their deadstock with his ideas. When explaining his creative process, he quotes Picasso on his statement that “Good artists copy, and great artists steal.” Do we call it upcycling? “It’s so hard. Somehow, like everything in terms of sustainability – upcycling, recycling… It all sounds so boring. But yeah, apparently people have labelled it and that is how it is now. Reworking, deconstructing, reconstructing – they are trying to get a cooler name for it.”
Whatever the name is, it all started for him during Lantink’s studies back in 2011. However, his colleagues and teachers weren’t on board with the idea of taking something that already exists and giving it another life. “It looks nice but you need to make it in a new material,” they would say. And so he did. But on the sly, he obsessively continued to collect high resolution product shots of high-end designer pieces from Farfetch. “They have this thing where it’s always sale, which I find so weird. It’s also such a pity because sometimes you buy something that you’ve really saved for and then two weeks later it’s 70% off.” His archive is now full of over 4000 designer pieces which he consistently uses in his work, all through to the art of Photoshop. A scroll through his Instagram shows those early ideas, for example a jacket that’s a combination of Calvin Klein, Lanvin, Marni and McQueen, each of the brands credited in the caption. “It gives me so much more energy to see how you can combine things that really don’t fit together than to just look at a pattern,” Lantink explains.
His final MA collection at the Sandberg Academy was the first time he had the opportunity to create his designs out of existing high fashion, with the support of few local concept stores which donated some of their old stock towards his collection. The final outcome, part of which were the now iconic platform Miu Miu x Nike platform shoes that Solange has recently worn, continued into his project at the International Fashion Showcase and has now set the ethos for his work to come. Interestingly, none of his work carries a label with his name on it, but instead carries a collage of the labels of brands used in the piece. “In a way, I’m creating this new outfit, but it’s also a race against the machine about branding, and about labelling. I’m trying to figure out other ways to make it recognisable, but then I guess it’s already branding. What we now do is that we archive it – there’s jacket number one, jacket number two, and so on.”
During Fashion Revolution Week, Lantink offered his service to the general public, as they brought in their old pieces they wanted reworking into fashion Frankens. Our good friend Susie Lau aka Susie Bubble was one of those people, bringing two jackets which he is extremely excited ot be working on. This process of commissions is how Lantink looks at fashion in the future, working on the base of using the resources and fulfilling the desire without over-producing. “My ideology is that sale was never happening anymore, because the moment of the season is gone.” Once the people are done with wearing his reworked pieces, he would take them back and rework again, combining them with other rejects. And so on, until infinity… Or at least until the next sale arrives.
Duran Lantink has had a great year, with the LVMH Prize shortlist being one of the definite highlights. Yet, it seems like quite a challenge to present these branded mash-ups to the people responsible for the garments. What makes it even more extreme is that the mixing of the big fashion groups was part of Lantink’s idea from the very beginning. “You had the Diesel group, the Kering group and the LVMH group. For example, half a Céline with half a Marni jacket or half a Balenciaga trouser and half a Loewe trouser.” While Jonathan Anderson and Umberto Leon of Kenzo were both super excited about what he presented, it wasn’t all a love at first sight. “I had this big paper shopping bag which was half Louis Vuitton and half Gucci and then all of sudden, Bernard Arnault [the chairman and chief executive of the LVMH group] came walking towards the wall, with all these grey men in grey suits and they were like: ‘Please explain.’ I just said I was sorry as I was just getting so nervous. I just had to be honest. And then I told him about upcycling and he was ok with it. That’s also weird because all of a sudden, when you say upcycling, it’s not a problem anymore that you mix.”
Sistaaz of the Castle
The conversation that Lantink is focusing on right now goes beyond just mixing labels. A project he is currently working on is a zine about SistaazHood, a publication about transgender sex workers group from Cape Town. With a funding campaign up and running, Lantink and his partner on this project, photographer Jan Hoek, are hoping to publish five years worth of work and finally give these women a globql voice. During the time, Hoek and Lantink travelled back and forth, establishing relationships with the Sistaaz of the Castle , getting to know their stories and allowing them to creatively express themselves. The zine is actually dedicated to a theme of “If you could be anyone, who would you be,” and sees these women imagining themselves as their best alter-egos, with Lantink working with them on creating garments that fit the bill. One of the Sistaaz is Celine Dion and her dream is to be the Celine Dion. Cleopatra sees herself as the ruler of the African continent while Flavirinia wants to be a supermodel. Through their personal stories, the goal is to not just educate the rest of the world, but create a safe space for these women to showcase their ideas. What the final object of the goal is, Lantink tells me, is perhaps starting a fashion show there, a platform for the world to get to know the immense creativity of the SistaazHood.
You can support the SistaazHood project here.
Duran Lantink 2019