Andre Walker in Paper Magazine, May 1991.
If you google “Andre Walker” you’ll come up with more results for Oprah’s hair stylist than you would for fashion designer Andre Walker. If you’ve never heard of or only vaguely recall fashion designer Andre Walker, that’s not a lack of awareness on your part, but an active choice of Mr. Walker’s to remain somewhat elusive online. The name Andre Walker officially emerged in fashion in the 90s when the collections he was designing at the time started to receive coverage from major fashion media. The reality is his career started much longer before, at just 15 he began showing his earliest collections at clubs in downtown Manhattan. It’s almost difficult to even pin him as just a fashion designer since that implies in some way an adherence to or at least an awareness of the underlying business principles of the industry––this aspect of fashion evaded Andre. So he began in Brooklyn and made a name for himself in the underground fashion scene, was eventually hired by the American sportswear label Williwear to design, then continued to make his own collections throughout the 90s (his last collection was shown in 2001). He was a consultant for Kim Jones and for Marc Jacobs during his beginnings at Louis Vuitton and again during the 2000s, he created a highly collectible (and expensive) magazine entitled TIWIMUTA a few years back, and he’s now in collaboration with Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe with a launch of his newest eponymous label, An Dre Walker, at the Dover Street Market New York. For all his accolades as a fashion insider, Andre Walker remains only a cult figure.
Finding images of Walker’s collections online is certainly a task (consider again how many images related to Oprah’s hairstylist there are to filter out). It’s mostly limited to magazine scans and newspaper clippings, but from what is available, it’s really hard to believe that he didn’t receive more attention during his time. From his youngest days reading W magazine and admiring his mother’s shoes for her cabaret performances, Andre saw fashion as one big glamorous party, not real business venture. Somehow he clung to this naiveté well into his early 20s, but that’s for the better. He had created for himself a sort of signature look in the 80s at the age of 16, the “whale-sleeved” coat with bulbous, balloon-like proportions, inspired by a cartoonish shape of a whale because it was apparently Andre’s favorite animal at the time. This is one of his famed pieced but pinning down a look for Andre Walker designs is sort of impossible since he designed on his whims, he designed for the party. In a recent interview with Garmento Magazine, he had said, “The stuff that I was making in 1982, or in 1992, had nothing to do with what was going on at the time. The only thing it had anything to do with, really, was that it was excessive, alternative, and underground.There was something in it, you could feel it had the desire and intention to be an ultimate fashion creation.” From what is documented online, his creations in the 80s and 90s had the most absurd cuts and tailoring, it’s hard to believe where someone could come up with something like that. It’s full of humor and wit, but it’s also the kind of stuff you’d want to wear.
From early on in his explosive young career he was likened to designers Geoffrey Beene and Charles James, and his clothes certainly carry that cadence of genius. When he speaks you recognize he is of someone who is not only so purely creative but who is intellectual, aware, and engaged with the world around him (he says that reading René Descartes at 18 is what spurred him to pursue fashion). As a designer and an individual, he engages fashion at a level that is lacking in the fashion world today, with too many designers creating collections with too many looks, and for what? Most of these designs aren’t worth the fabric their made of in terms of quality or innovation. He condemns this slavish attitude to consumerism that drives modern fashion. For Andre Walker, the cycles of fashion never applied. He produces on a time frame of his dictate, creates only what he feels compelled to create, and he evolves constantly, which is what makes him so difficult to pin down. Stasis is a state unknown to Andre Walker––he is fashion gone rogue, the perennially emerging designer.
(L) Andre Walker and Pierre Francillon by Amy Arbus, 1983. (R) Andre Walker design from the late 80s.
Andre Walker A/W 1995.
Andre Walker A/W 1988 by Jesse Frohman for Paper Magazine.
(L) Andre Walker A/W 1992 collection "Yayy!! Da Sweetease". (R) Andre Walker A/W 1993 by Bill Cunningham.
(L) Cecilia Dean wearing Andre Walker for Paper Magazine May 1988. (R) Leslie Macayza wearing Andre Walker's whale design by J. Henry Fair for STOP Magazine, 1984.
Claude Montana and Andre Walker in Paper Magazine October 1988.
Andre Walker A/W 2014 for Dover Street Market.
Andre Walker A/W 2014 for Dover Street Market.
Newspaper clipping of Andre Walker A/W 1988 by Walt Cessn.