Inside the mind of Duran Lantink, the ingenious Dutch fashion designer who is rewriting the rules of the fashion system
Interview by: Gianmarco Gronchi
In a world that has reached schizophrenic levels of consumerism, we need to rethink our reality. The philosophical paradigm of “new is better” might be replaced by “buy less, buy better”. Even fashion – or rather, especially fashion – has to face the challenges brought by the physical, material and moral impossibility of sustaining these production rhythms. Dealing with these problems is certainly not easy for a system that generates millions of dollars of profit every day, but the time has come and there is no longer jiff to delegate. It is no coincidence that the latest fashion weeks and trade fairs have shown that many fashion enterprises are focusing on the issue of sustainability. Parallel to this, a new generation of designers is emerging, ready to rewrite the future of the fashion in the name of sustainability.
Amongst production reconversions and avant-garde proposals, one who certainly deserves a place of prominence is the Dutch designer Duran Lantink. Graduated from the Sandberg Instituut in 2017 and shortlisted for the 2019 LVMH Prize, he has been truly leading the way in conceiving and consuming fashion towards a different future for some years now. For his eponymous brand, Lantink produces only (gorgeous) one-of-a-kind pieces, which are created by reusing discarded clothes and vintage fabrics. Instead of being thrown away, used clothes, under Lantink’s creative mind, become the starting point for something new, leaving the final buyer the possibility to personalise and resell them in turn, in a potentially endless and totally sustainable production cycle. During Milan Fashion Week, we met Duran, who was present with his brand at the White Show, to find out more about his philosophy and his creative world.
Gianmarco Gronchi: Hi Duran, we are very happy to see you here. First of all, why do you choose to come here in Milan?
Duran Lantink: I got infatuated by White Milano and I thought it was a very good moment to go out there again. After the pandemic, it is the moment to come back at physical presentation. For me it is fundamental that my clothes are shown in a physical way because they are one-of-a-kind pieces. It is not like fast fashion that you can buy online and send it back if the size is wrong.
GG: We are amazed by your stunning creations from “Springsummerautumnwinter”, your last season-less collection, and we would like to know something more about your philosophy and your creative approach.
DL: The idea that lays down my pieces is that whenever you buy something and then you do not like it anymore, you could bring it back to us and we will transform into a new piece for you. Somehow we try to keep the pieces into the loop, so nothing will be destroyed, but always reused to create other clothes. This is an important aspect about my work. Nowadays even big brands are working on the idea of recycling and reusing second-hand clothes, so I think that my proposal is suitable for the fashion system. Of course, I would like to expand my production in the future, but always with unique items.
GG: And what about your aesthetics. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that there is a strong visual influence of the metropolitan world that surrounds us.
DL: Definitely, I think it is important to give a reflection of what is happening today. I have never thought “Am I modern or not?” or “Am I modern enough?”. I think is important for me to share my message and, I guess, it is something that reflects the world we live in. That makes me modern, probably. I think is also interesting to play with existing clothes, which already have a story on their own, and do not play with “flat material”, if you know what I mean. As a starting point, collecting cloth pieces is very important for me. Then I start thinking about proposing them in a different way, invent something completely new out of them.
GG: Where do you take inspiration from? You told me collected clothes are a starting point, but do you have any other source of inspiration?
DL: Inspiration is so strange. It is never like “Oh, I am going to use flowers print this season”. It is more a reaction to things I walk through. When people tell me that something is not possible, then there is always a reaction, that pushes me to create. It is part of the process. I try to refresh myself every time I make a collection or I create some pieces, in order to better reflect about the things I have struggled with or that I have appreciated at that moment. There is no clear inspiration, but everything flows naturally through the process. It is very much about the momentum, I think.
GG: We have seen that you usually take the labels from luxury brand, you cut them in twice and then you reassembly them, adding your signature. This makes me think about the practice of taking pictures from the Internet and editing them to have a new creative result. Is it yours a statement of freedom for the era of social media?
DL: When I started cutting other brands’ labels it was mainly a reaction to the fact that today those brand are extremely dominant in the fashion system. It was mainly a complaint. For example, if you are a stylist and you want to use Prada you have to use it from head to toe. I think that this way of working takes creativity away from stylists, photographers and magazines. I told myself that if a stylist can not cut and paste together different brands, I can do that as a designer. Moreover, it is an honest reaction to what people are wearing in the streets. Nobody wears a total look anymore, and more and more people usually match a Gucci bag with a H&M dress and a pair of vintage shoes, for example. I am annoyed to those who try to sell a vision of the fashion that is not true. I really understand your reflection about the internet and the rebuilding of images, it is very similar, but it is not my first intention.
GG: And can we say that irony is a natural consequence of your working methodology?
DL: Definitely. Irony is a key factor in my collection.
GG: I really see your collection as an answer to the need of rethinking the way we dress, the way we produce, the way we consume fashion.
DL: Of course! And also, I hope my work could make people think about the way we take care of our products. We should be very conscious that we are living in an era where it is not possible to wear a skirt just one time and then throw it way. For this reason, I am working on the way we can save fabrics and use it for something new. If you have a leather pants and it breaks down, it does not necessarily have to remain some pants, but it could become a top or something else. Everything can be transformed.
GG: I think this is an amazing statement. Could I ask you if you have some special project for the future? Could you tell us what are you working on for the next season?
DL: I do have some plans, but I cannot speak about it now. Cannot spoil them! [He laughs] You will see.
We thank Duran and wish him good luck for his work. If fashion can really take a stand, Duran’s message is the one that we should all be shouting for things to improve while there is still time. It is a major effort, and we need to be brave, for sure. But we cannot wait to see what this brilliant mind will show us in the future.