The New York Times – An Improbable Magazine From a Fashion Zelig

Here’s a little piece from The New York Times from this year’s fashion week on the extremely talented Andre Walker. They caught up with him to discuss the second issue of his much-hyped fashion ‘zine Tiwimuta. And where did they choose for the meeting? Tea & Sympathy of course, over a spot of rhubarb crumble and a pot of Earl Grey.

An Improbable Magazine From a Fashion Zelig

By GUY TREBAY

Published: February 11, 2011

“It’s radically improbable and the most practically impossible thing you could imagine,” said Andre Walker, referring to Tiwimuta, a publication he refers to as an object-zine, as he hauled a new copy from his rucksack. “I did it in ignorance, the way I do everything,” he added. “I never really know what’s going on.”

Andre Walker, at home in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, produces limited editions of his eccentric magazine, Tiwimuta

This is far from the truth, as any fashion insider could tell you. Andre Walker always seems to know what’s going on and seemingly has since staging his first runway show in the Oasis, a Brooklyn club, at age 15. Mr. Walker is a kind of fashion Zelig, a man whose unofficial résumé (he would never have an actual résumé) locates him into so many places at so many times and in the thick of so many scenes that one cannot help but be amazed when he informs you that he is just 44.

Mr. Walker, who neglected to finish high school, got his start in long-ago times working for Williwear, a label created by Willi Smith, the prodigy who designed the wedding dress worn by Mary Jane Watson when she married Peter Parker in the Spider-Man comic book in 1987 and the suits that Edwin Schlossberg and his groomsmen wore when he married Caroline Kennedy in 1986. Mr. Smith died of AIDS in 1987 at 39.

Mr. Walker then went to Paris to work with the designer Patrick Kelly, another early AIDS casualty; formed his own label; made clothes whose padding and flanged hemlines put some in mind of the design genius Charles James and others of the mermaids at Weeki Wachee; and become a center of a small downtown design cult and a Paper magazine darling and a hired gun for other designers, like Kim Jones, who seem to be intrigued by his near-telepathic ability to read the spirit of the moment.

Most prominently, he worked as a consultant to Marc Jacobs for a decade until Mr. Jacobs abruptly cashiered him by text message a year ago.

“We’re still good friends, though,” Mr. Walker said. “What can you do?”

You can start a magazine, of course, although you have no publishing experience. You can give it a nearly unpronounceable title formed from an acronym (This Is What It Made Us Think About) and sell it at Barneys New York, Rizzoli and Dashwood Books on Bond Street and at Colette in Paris in costly limited editions — the first number was $375; the second, which comes out this week, costs $195 — and produce it yourself in the vast Victorian house where you were raised in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, and where your parents, Jamaican immigrants and ordained ministers, operate a beauty shop in the basement.

You can ask pals like Mr. Jacobs to pose half-clad in women’s evening wear and to be photographed by Jean-Paul Goude and then print the resulting pictures on heavy stock with an embossing press; and solicit contributions from other friends, like the writer Hilton Als (a pal from Danceteria days) and the photographer Marcelo Krasilcic and the artist Phillipa Horan, compiling their efforts in an image-dense volume that, once it finds its way into the studios of art directors and designers, is certain to be scrutinized with the kind of rapt devotion one associates with the Book of Kells.

“It’s wonderfully eccentric,” said David Strettell, the former cultural director of the photo agency Magnum and the proprietor of Dashwood, referring to Tiwimuta. “It’s so free-form it’s hard to get a grip on, but that’s also what’s so special about it.”

Everything he has learned to date, Mr. Walker said, “I’ve learned from having a lack of knowledge.” By certain standards this might make him an idiot savant. Yet Andre Walker is nobody’s fool. “I was never afraid to come up with an idea that was totally impossible,” he said last week over Earl Grey tea and rhubarb crumble at the Anglo-centric restaurant Tea and Sympathy.

“That’s a problem with fashion right now, and with art and with culture,” he added, before heading off to pick up a bunch of new issues from the printer.

“People have become too fearful,” said Mr. Walker, who was wearing cerulean corduroy jeans and a snug cotton T-shirt; he had a wool cap pulled low on his brow. “They’re afraid to do something improbable, something that is not immediately commercial. They’ve gotten themselves locked inside this cold referencing machine and they’re stuck.”

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