Talking Purpose And Repurpose - Duran Lantink On The Phone
Duran Lantink operates at the intersection of art and fashion and is known for his unique vision on sustainability. He creates exciting, sustainable collections from remnants from the fashion industry, processes leftover materials and unsold garments from luxury brands into new innovative designs. Characteristic for his work is the use of eclectic collage techniques, contrasts and also his sense of urgent social themes. For his recently launched second Concrete Store collection, Lantink revisited our stock archives and created another batch of magic.
Besides all kinds of sensations and emotions, quite a few questions arise when looking at the new Duran Lantink x Concrete Store collection. We decided to give the creator a poke about his thoughts and motivations regarding the collection as well as his work process.
"Every new collection piece is a puzzle, from the moment I enter a dead stock archive I start making collages in my mind."
Hello Duran! Where are you at this moment? How are you doing over there?
I am in Amsterdam, in my studio, doing fine. Some of my running projects have slowed down a bit due to all the current confusion in the world. But I am still busy, enjoying work, and working with great people. Having that said, I am actually very much looking forward to taking a short break, shutting down the studio for two weeks. This is something I have not been able to do for years, thinking of it, not since I truly started focusing as a designer. It is yet unclear where I will spend this short vacation, but will let you know as soon as I have found out [laughs].
According to general knowledge you are active in the intersection of fashion, art and sustainability. How would you describe your work?
My work is all about upcycling, repurposing dead stock. Which all started in 2013 during my final year at the Gerrit Rietveld art academy. I created an all black collection from thrift shop items and vintage design pieces. Actually Concrete helped me out by gifting me some of the pieces I reused in my some of the creations.
The teachers were not in favor of my approach, believing that I should start from scratch, start by creating fabrics. Their idea of creating something from nothing, did not match mine. A discarded piece of clothing or an unsellable item in a warehouse in many cases meets the concept of “nothing” and needs a reworking to become something again.
After my graduation I went to the Sandberg Institute to further define my focus and position as a designer. I spent my time there researching the situation of dead stock in fashion and retail. From that point on I have solely focused myself on these garments that, despite all efforts and of sales, stay unsold. An enormous amount of brand new clothing, which with every season only continues to grow.
Your layered works tell all kinds of, intelligible and less understandable, stories. The original garments have their own backgrounds. Juxtaposed together they start conversations. And then there is the addition of your own unique creativity and conviction. What stories do you currently find most important to express in your work?
I do not know if I want to tell a specific predetermined story or even a theme. In this I might differ from other designers. Every new collection piece is a puzzle, from the moment I enter a dead stock archive I start making collages in my mind. I am interested in garments containing components with life left in them. My studio has a zero waste policy, which means we recreate everything and reuse everything as well, down to the zippers and threads. We are continuously finding ways and redefining ourselves to be able solve these puzzles. In the end it comes down to creating collections that are aesthetically pleasing. Collections which are coherent, individually autonomous and in accordance to my sense of spirit.
The current state of fashion and retail is, in a certain way, an end of an era. A great time for new ideas. Everyone has the opportunity to find its own ways to create the future they want to be part of. For me it is about being connected with the things and people I like. I love clothing and there are a lot of beautiful existing items lying among in the world. I always strive to make something more beautiful than it already was. It is very satisfying to set goals and being able to achieve them with my team.
"Growing up in The Hague it was the only shop in the entire area that was interesting. They were the only place to stand face to face with pieces of Walter van Beirendonck’s Aesthetic Terrorist."
You have previously created an other collection for Concrete Store. What is your relationship with them and their stock archive?
At the age of 14 I was a great admirer of Concrete Store. Growing up in The Hague it was the only shop in the entire area that was interesting. They were the place to stand face to face with pieces of Walter van Beirendonck’s Aesthetic Terrorist. I was a big fan of Walter, still am. Other brands I remember were Sabotage and Franklin & Marshall, but it was mainly Dirk and Assya’s ability to mix brands and items in a way that was continuously surprising. They were able to provide a dynamic perspective of international fashion. And, thinking of it, still very much so. In a big city as Amsterdam, Concrete Store is currently the only place I can truly rely on to go and always be treated with interesting new brands, styles and ideas. For me this is of essential importance for me, but also for fashion, and for a city as Amsterdam. Without gems like Concrete Store this role will be attempted to be taken over by large department stores and lead to nothing but mediocrity.
Anyways, I applied to work at Concrete Store when I was 14 years old. I did not last very long as I figured out I’d rather spend my time smoking pot [laughs]. Yet I needed the money, for my pot [laughs]. A complicated situation [laughs]. But I would like to press my admiration for what Dirk and Assya have been able to for so many years, staying true to their beliefs and offering a physical space where you can feel, fit and truly discover new fashion. This physical aspect is very important to me.
How do you relate to large online retailers? Will they be able to offer a solution? They have enough money.
I do not know. Currently I am skeptical. There will come a moment in time when the physical world and digital world will blend in a way that they can truly feed into one another. A state in which a product can enter and leave a digital interface or realm. At this moment however the large online retail business worries me. Uneases me, to put it mildly.
Like Amazon and all the companies trying to copy its financial success?
I do not want to talk about Amazon. I might be shooting myself in the foot by openly admitting, but at this moment I would rather work for 3000 small independent boutiques than for one Amazon. I want to approach, be approached, touch an be touched by people, in a direct personal way. What always fascinated me was that, through all the years I have followed them, Concrete Store never took part in the common Sale cycle, you know, mid-season, end-of-season, early access, black Friday, you name it. And the fact that they got away with it. I loved them for it. They appreciate fashion in their own way. We can not permit losing authenticity.
What about money? Is it not important?
Yes, of course, but to a certain extent it is more important for me to be able to determine my own focus and agenda. I have currently arranged myself, my work and my studio in a way that I can be independent, free from investors and loans. I do not know about the future, but at this moment I want and need to be in charge of my own creative quest. I am still focused on making a name for myself and my brand.
"For this new collection I was able to dive deeper into the archive, therefor able to play around with volume, layers and silhouettes."
You have created collections for numerous institutes and occasions, such as the solo exhibition at Centraal Museum in Utrecht. In what way was this collection different from other collections you have created?
The difference between creating an exhibition piece and a wearable garment lies in its function and use, as well as the restrictions of the retailers in question. In the business of upcycling you are dependent on which clothing is made available. The first collection for Concrete Store consisted mainly of light summer items such as t-shirts, trousers and sweatshirts. For this new collection I was able to dive deeper into the archive, therefor able to play around with volume, layers and silhouettes. The puzzles, collages, become more complex as more original garments are added to the mix. The amount of possible outcomes increases, as well as the amount of fuck ups. It is impossible to predict in advance how a collection will develop and which materials will lead to interesting results.
Do you have favorite pieces in this new collection? What makes a piece valuable to you?
Newly obtained dead stock pieces which initially are favorites, the ones we immediately get started with, often turn out to be slightly disappointing in the end. While garments I initially am hesitant towards, sometimes, due to the design process you initiate, grow into pieces that the entire studio gradually falls madly in love with. These items lift you to all kind of heights. For the new collection for Concrete Store, this happened with both the Puffered Layered Long Coat as well as with the Puffer Dress Jacket. The items, materials for these pieces, kept hanging on the rack, unable to fit any kind of purpose. I doubted if they would ever be used properly. Then something clicked and they took us for a ride. I can not always rationally explain what makes me drawn towards specific creations. The two pieces I mentioned earlier have a certain voluminous proportions which I find exciting.
Although it is a unisex collection the items seem to be quite potent. I don’t know if it is because of the interaction between the layers or the new silhouettes they create, but the results seem sexually charged. Do you mind me saying this?
No not at all. I actually appreciate you saying this. Yes I purposely decided to blur the gender labeling and felt confident it could still have enough edge. This sexuality you speak of was not a deliberate outcome, it was an incidental part of the design process. However, the project I’m currently working on, my new personal collection, does have a purposeful, more compelling view of sexuality. It is about showing one’s personal nudity and all its layers.
Have your approach, methods and beliefs changed or developed over the past years? Regarding work, fashion, sustainability?
Wow, that is a big question. I notice the collages, or puzzles as I previously have called them, become more complex, more sophisticated and the degree of craftsmanship involved in the production is increasing. Perhaps is too early in my career to try to make sense of it or try to analyze the phases. In the end, when all has been upcycled, we can look back and talk about that [laughs]. Time to time I look back at some of my older work and feel I could and would create it again tomorrow.
"I would like to start my own design and repair shop with its own client base. To create a circular system that keeps upcycling, keeps growing in expertise, creativity and effectiveness."
Speaking of tomorrow, if you could draw a future for yourself and your work, what would it look like?
Fashion seems to be in a transition period and it is very unclear what things will look like in retrospect. What we will have learned, what our roles were and how they will be perceived. To be honest I often find the bigger picture confusing, elusive. I like to focus on my work and, in many aspects, I feel I am making progress, which is perhaps all we can wish for. I enjoy inspiring people and find it important to be in direct contact with the people that inhabit my collections.
As an extension of my current activities I would like to start my own design and repair shop with its own client base. To create a circular system that keeps upcycling, keeps growing in expertise, creativity and effectiveness. We would be able to build a lifelong clientele. Recreate everything.
And dreams or wishes? Do you still dare to dream in these current times?
I can imagine there will be a moment, perhaps in the near future, in which I feel the urgency to travel and explore my creative possibilities and that of fashion artisans in other parts of the world. If I dare to speak freely I would love to have the opportunity to develop a second line for Hermès or Chanel. To have access to their archives, expertise and network. I am eager to find out how much can be recreated.
Thank you Duran, for hanging on the phone and spilling your gut. I hope you have a good vacation. Send pics from wherever you end up.
I will, thank you.