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Photography Brianna Capozzi

Exorcising the old and invoking the new: Duran Lantink is getting real

The rising designer talks swapping Amsterdam for Paris, the next chapter of his label, and aspirations of taking the helm at Chanel

Picture this: it’s Saturday morning at 11AM during PFW, and a mix of editors already on their third appointment of the day are mingling with the bleary-eyed night owls who barely made it home outside sustainable fashion accelerator hub La Caserne. The crowd has congregated there to welcome Duran Lantink to Paris, as the Dutch designer leaves Amsterdam behind in favour of an off-schedule show in the global fashion capital. 

Known for slicing up designer overstock into sexy, desirable, Frankenstein-esque garments, the hard-to-define designer has often been labelled as a sustainable enfant terrible, challenging fashion’s odd and outdated norms and its endless cycle of overconsumption. It didn’t start out like that, though: “It’s always been about having fun and finding new ways of designing,” he explains. 

In his universe, a faux-fur sleeve can become a top, and a coat and skirt can be cut-copy-pasted into a discerningly beautiful hybrid piece – as seen on Billie Eilish’s 2020 Dazed cover. His nifty methods were born when he was a child, and all he had to play around with was a closet full of 80s high-glam party wear belonging to his mother.

Cut to his inaugural Paris runway, where the smell of freshly burnt sage filled the space and 39 looks breezed past the fashion crowd on powerhouse names like Rianne van Rompaey and Marte Mei, who showed up to support their Dutch compatriot. When it came to the clothes, oversized blouses were draped into flowing, off-shoulder dresses, low-slung, utilitarian trousers were cinched with backpack straps, while leftover scraps of gold and silver metallics used circa Lantink’s earlier collections were dotted throughout. 

Elsewhere, knitwear was moulded into bulbous looks that warped the silhouette and simultaneously exposed flashes of skin, and new iterations of the coats worn by Lizzo and Beyoncé rounded things off. The whole thing felt like a coming-of-age show, with Lantink taking the steps to propel his brand and business forward, and showing the world that he’s here to stay. “I’m a serious designer,” he explains. “I’m not just an artist cutting up old designer pieces.”

Hey Duran! Can you start by telling me a bit about how your AW23 collection came together? 

Duran Lantink: I wanted to have a real show, and Paris seemed like the holy grail. It was very much a dialogue between me and stylist Jodie Barnes. A collection never starts with a solid concept. For me it’s about playing around and seeing what comes out of it. I started out creating very sculptural shapes, digitally manipulating images on Photoshop. Then my studio team started sculpting the shapes IRL with fiberfill. That was one element of the show, but we also focused on showing garments that are more commercial than people are used to from us. We focused on extreme shapes but also gave people an idea of how they could wear it in a daily situation.

As guests made their way to their seats, the smell of burning sage filled the air and the soundtrack seemed some kind of guided meditation. Can you tell us a bit more about the inspiration behind that?

Duran Lantink: We were supposed to do a rave but the location wasn’t able to do it. Then I saw all these other brands doing raves and parties so I thought it would be good to do the opposite and have a cleansing moment on Saturday morning instead. I just moved here so it’s almost like a cliché, right? Going into a new place and getting rid of all the bad spirits.

Since everybody’s schedule is so busy, and basically nobody is relaxed coming to my show – everybody is in a rush – so I thought it would be good to play with that situation and the idea of meditation. I asked artist Lotte de Jager to do a performance pre-show, guiding the editors to their seats, burning white sage as part of a sacred smudging ceremony.

“We asked ourselves what a Duran cult would look like, and started playing with that idea. I don’t know if I believe in my own cult to be honest, but this felt like a good beginning.” – Duran Lantink

Are you trying to cleanse the fashion system of bad energy as a whole? 

Duran Lantink: I think it was more personal. It was also kind of a ritual, right? Me and the team were constantly talking about weird cults you have in fashion. For example if you think about Comme des Garçons, there’s a certain kind of person that wears that and you can recognise it everywhere. So we asked ourselves what a Duran cult would look like, and started playing with that idea. I don’t know if I believe in my own cult to be honest, but this felt like a good beginning.

I’m not saying that I am the one that wants to cleanse the whole fashion world, but I am trying to introduce a more positive way. Especially regarding the speed of it. The soundtrack created by Frederic Sanchez was kind of meditative and shroom-y, which I thought was nice. It was my first show in Paris and it didn’t need to be a big bang, I just wanted to have a solid start.

Your previous projects were conceived by slicing up and putting back together overstock designer garments. Why did you decide to step away from that concept?

Duran Lantink: About 30 per cent is still sliced up. The hourglass trench coat is made from old Burberry, it still has the label on it. Most of my previous projects were in collaboration with multi-brand stores, and this collection was focused on creating something which is my own rather than depending on a store that wants to give me access to stock. That’s why I started looking around my studio, which is obviously not filled with Chanel jackets. 

Sustainability and circularity will always be in my DNA. This time we worked a lot with my leftover fabrics, something I had never done before. It’s all about the journey, I need to be able to play around and discover things and reinvent myself. 

The brand felt like it matured a little this season. Can you tell us a bit more about your next direction?

Duran Lantink: Maybe the next collection will be very immature, who knows (laughs). All jokes aside, we are definitely trying to figure out how to make the company more feasible. We relocated the studio to Paris and next we’re doing a show in October. We’re shifting to a seasonal schedule, it’s all about showing people that I’m a serious designer, rather than just an artist cutting up old designer pieces. I think I need to earn respect.

About your move to Paris. I know the BFC tried to persuade you to relocate the studio to London a couple of years ago but then you held on fast to your Amsterdam roots. What changed?

Duran Lantink: COVID, I guess? Amsterdam just isn’t bringing me anything. I wanted to move to London at a certain point, but then Brexit happened, COVID happened, and Paris seems like the right moment and place. I'm very happy when I'm here, biking around the city. In Paris, there are many more people that share the same interests and that I connect with. So yeah… I guess it’s Paris for now.

Look 17, a Kingsday (Koningsdag) orange turtleneck peeking out a leopard trouser and shirt combination felt like a Dutch inside joke. Was it important to bring a bit of home to the Paris runway?

Duran Lantink: There are a lot of Dutch jokes actually. I always use a lot of orange, and the leopard reminded me of my childhood. My friend’s mom had a house full of leopard print and the material actually comes from discarded couches. We cut up the most famous tank top from HEMA. I also think Dutch people are all about practicality, so turning rucksacks into fashion items that are becoming impractical is something very un-Dutch. And there was a scribbled coat (worn by Jonas Glöer) that has been on display at the Museum van de Geest in Haarlem where we invited visitors to draw on the item. 

“I don’t really know what it means to make it in fashion. Probably that means becoming the creative director of Chanel. That would be fun, I’m ready for it!” – Duran Lantink

Are you planning to join the official Paris Fashion Week calendar?

Duran Lantink: I don’t really see the need or importance of being on the calendar at this point. For me, it was really important that I could choose my own timing. We'll see! Maybe I'll be on the calendar or maybe not. As long as I can continue to do my work, and share it.

If being on the calendar is not a metric of success to you, what does ‘making it’ look like?

Duran Lantink: I don’t really know. Being able to create the things I want, and executing my vision. Finding the right people to connect with and be surrounded by, that is making it to me personally. But I don’t really know what it means to make it in fashion. Probably that means becoming the creative director of Chanel. That would be fun, I’m ready for it!

There’s been a lot of conversation this season about the industry’s pivot to stealth wealth and quiet luxury. Multi-brand stores are scaling down orders in favour of heritage brands, allocating less budget to emerging labels. Do you feel that’s a challenge for you right now?

Duran Lantink: Actually my biggest challenge is figuring  out how to produce in a sustainable way. That’s the journey we’re on, and we’re getting there. As far it goes with retailers and buyers, I’m still very much cultivating these relationships. I’m optimistic that I’ll find the right partners that share the same values and understand the importance of what I’m doing. 

I hope the consumer can trust the vision and creativity of the designer. We’re trying to facilitate this with our e-shop, where we offer one-of-a-kind pieces that the owner can return to be resold or have transformed into a completely new garment. Even though we are working with stores now, we will definitely continue this practice.

Next to your fashion practice you are known for curating and collaborating on exhibitions with artists that are often excluded from the mainstream, for example uplifting neurodivergent or migrant voices. Why is it important to create work with a societal impact?

Duran Lantink: Right now we are working on an exhibition with the Zeeuws Museum, slicing up their old traditional Dutch costumes together with refugees to create a collection that is blended with their respective cultures. Bringing together different elements is very important for me. I can not only do the runway thing. It’s just not in my DNA! I want to highlight different aspects of my work, and show it in different contexts rather than just on the runway. I need to be grounded in a way.