Andre Walker is a New York classic—the kind of person who is anywhere anything cool is happening. The Ditmas Park-born fashion designer was a star of New York’s downtown fashion seen in the ’80s and ’90s—his wry collections included styles with names like “Boring wrap dress”—and has been a longtime friend and onetime consultant to Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones. Pre-pandemic, he was a familiar presence at art fairs and galleries, in his tank top with his drawstring knapsack on his back. I’d never seen someone look at art the way he does: leaning and bobbing before a canvas, like each piece might be three dimensional. Like each painting might be hiding something.
If designers often point dilettantishly to the same slate of obvious references, Walker is of the rare breed that works like a sponge. He is a mover but not a shaker, endlessly eager to wring out some of what he’s soaked up through any medium. (Karl Lagerfeld, Martin Margiela, and Willi Smith, whose brand Walker briefly took over after Smith’s death in 1987, were also this way.) A few years after he shuttered his brand, in 2001, he launched the print magazine project TIWIMUTA (“this is what it made us think about”), which he described to me as “the most illogical, improbable magazine in the world, really. It’s quite ridiculous.” He doesn’t seem to dart from project to project like a bee. Instead, he buzzes and lingers like a hummingbird, drinking things in. As a result, he seems less like a relic of the ’80s or ’90s during which he came to prominence than a multidisciplinary artist who will never run out of ideas.
“I never like when people call me a veteran,” he said, chuckling, “but I guess I am one, at this point.”
I called up Walker last week to talk about his collaboration with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, which was just released, even though it was announced in 2017. It’s made up of classic but quirked pieces in the Walker tradition—a hoodie whose pocket extends up almost to the collarbone, a T-shirt with two long box pleats and a belt, a pair of black track pants. Abloh and Walker took a year and a half to build it, Walker said, “and the year following that I was so busy, and then Virgil got signed on to Vuitton.” (That made me feel like a veteran.)
Walker is characteristically philosophical about sitting on the collection for so long. “In fashion, there’s this sense of urgency that often pervades the participants’ mindset,” he said. “There’s this sense that It has to be out now and It has to be out right away. And I don’t believe that’s true at all anymore.”
Still, he says, “Imagine sitting on that wild T-shirt design for four years. I thought I was gonna burst!”
He continued, “I’m just happy that there’s a limited edition of those very progessive and enthusiastic design pieces out there that people can enjoy. And at the same time, heralding a camaraderie within the design community, and just the community at large.”