Well, here’s another first in the collection-review stakes: I am a drone, circling hundreds of feet above the Netherlands, and about to swoop in on Duran Lantink and his inaugural “spring-summer-autumn-winter” ’21 runway show. Excuse me while I loop the loop in search of the designer. Ah, there he is, Duran-as-drone, hovering in wait over the sweeping façade of the 17th-century Dutch royal Soestdijk Palace. I can see some fellow guests are buzzing in too: Hi!
Of all the schemes that designers have come up with during the pandemic, Lantink’s surely counts as one of the most hilarious alternatives to ye olde practice of “flying in” editors, celebs, and influencers. And aptly super low on the carbon-footprint comparison too, for Lantink’s mind is a fashion-sustainability reengineering mechanism. He’s been, ah, piloting his upcycling methods—repurposing unsold designer-label clothes in his pioneering, cheeky way—since 2013. But this is his first runway show…and we’re coming in to land.
Full disclosure: During this trip, I’m at home in London, and Lantink is chatting over his airborne video as we virtually zoom in to see his models parading through the back rooms of the palace. Wiggling his wings in greeting, he explains that appropriately enough, the former hunting lodge of the Dutch royal family is itself currently being repurposed by the Meyer Beckman Foundation as a center for platforming made-in-Holland sustainable manufacturing solutions. It’s opening in 2024. Duran Lantink is the first to get through its doors.
“We’re here 30 kilometers outside Amsterdam,” he begins. “That’s where I have my studio. It’s pretty huge, and I’ve got it for 300 euros a month as an anti-squat rent. Basically, during lockdown, I had time to work with my assistant, Thibault, on all the materials I had left over from collaborations with stores and brands, and to come up with this, our first runway collection.” Thibault is in the show, wearing, in one of his exits, a swishing lemon yellow dress that is reconstructed from another dress which had been left over from Lantink’s collaboration with Ellery last year. The point was to give him free rein to recycle and give new life to their unsold inventory.
As we buzz around his collection, Lantink points out how he’s unpicked, restyled, and refashioned multiple piles of clothes lying around his studio which “used to be” garments by Balmain, Balenciaga, Prada, Proenza Schouler, Vetements, Marine Serre, and many more. “In the beginning, we started with stores to see how we could work with their deadstock to see how we could stop their clothes going into landfill. And that was the beginning of thinking how we could create a completely new form of business.”
Flying down the deserted back corridors of the palace, he keeps up the commentary of how he dissected pattern pieces and replaced them upside down, and every which way. Trendsters will instantly be into his 2000-gen ideation of sexy reveal-conceal. There’s a zigzaggy sparkly dress—one breast out—remade from something unsold from Balmain, and naked illusion half-dresses sewn onto stretchy body pieces. A flash of a diamanté thong (made from recycled materials) is homage to Tom Ford’s Gucci 1997 moment, but with a Duran Lantink logo planted in the crucial place.
Yet Lantink has also now come up with an ingenious plan for extending the buzzy fashion “moment” so that it can morph into potentially infinite new shapes for his followers. As we circle around his upcycled clothes, he announces the launch of a service on his new direct-to-wearer website. “When you’re fed up with something, you can click on two tabs. One, where you can resell. On the other, we will work with you to remake what you have to become whatever you like. So a coat can become a dress. A dress can become a shirt. A shirt can be trousers. Whatever you want!” People who are up for engaging with Lantink’s process are destined to be the happy recipients of fully documented online records of where their clothes originated, and how they’ve been altered over time: a personalized archive.
That redefinition of being able to love and re-love clothes in a never-ending cycle restyled by a designer is something I’ve never heard before. Bidding Lantink drone-borne goodbyes, I’m thinking just how much the idea of luxury fashion is about to be permanently altered by innovators like him.