24 Aug 2023 ///

Love and Creativity Intertwined with Dicker & Dane

The single force underpinning our capacity for creativity is human connection. On the altar of artistic expression, our work can only be transformed by our ability to love each other, community and life itself. If there were a creative duo steeped in this notion – of love and creativity intertwined – it would be Armand Dicker and Anthony Hinrichsen. Their collaborative story is bound by their love for each other and their simultaneous and respective visions for life, fashion, art, exploration – and then some. As creative and life partners, I am struck by the ‘twin-soul’ essence of Ant and Armand together; like spiritual mirrors to each, their work as a creative duo acts as a container for the redirection of their energies coming together. This is what makes their duo-ship, Dicker & Dane, one of the most compelling forces in the sartorial landscape. Just in the week that I am writing this, their exclusive story for Vogue Portugal has been published. With photography, creative direction and styling created by the duo alongside their small team – the editorial is a mid-century dreamscape, featuring garments by local labels Viviers, Rich Mnisi, MMUSOMAXWELL, Cape Cobra Leathercraft, Amble and LABHOMMES.

While the pair mostly reside in Cape Town, the last few years have seen them work between various places in the world from Paris, to London and now, Bangkok. In our conversation, Ant shares that this is his third time living in Thailand – and Armand’s second time. It was the place in which Ant’s initial trajectory in fashion was first realised, as he says “I studied film and television production and then right after university, I got an opportunity to come to Thailand. I did the teaching thing for a bit and then realised it wasn’t really the life for me, so I caught a bus into Bangkok and managed to meet a boss on the same day who introduced me to the fashion industry here. My first job in fashion was working in PR and international sales for a Thai brand.” After returning to South Africa, Ant honed his editorial skills at Gingko Agency in their ‘Beautiful News’ division, a space that releases one positive short film per day.

“I wanted to come to South Africa and be part of the industry there, but at the time – just under a decade ago – there didn’t feel like there were many opportunities. Especially compared to what I had experienced in Thailand, which is a very vibrant and amazing industry. Thai locals support Thai designers and the Thai government provides a lot of funding – people can really create here.”

For Armand, design was his initial segue into fashion, noted for his brand ‘Dicker’, “I have always had an affinity for fashion from my very early teenage years. I think the Devil Wears Prada woke that up for me. I studied fashion after school and some great things happened for me. I started interning with South African designers who I felt had an international edge and during my holidays I was interning at SA Fashion Week, with Suzaan Heyns. My final collection at school was done with the intention to get it into AFI Fastrack, which I did and ended up in the top four alongside Thebe Magugu, Nthabiseng Molefe and Martelle Ludik.”

When Armand and Ant started dating in Cape Town, they moved to Thailand together and spent two years between Malaysia and Thailand, Ant says “we moved here together as models but we weren’t really getting the kinds of jobs that we wanted. We started styling together and decided to make our own editorials. That’s when our duo really started.” Lockdown would bring them back to Cape Town, and into a cocoon that fostered their respective knowledge and skill sets towards developing their duo. As Ant says, “we started testing stories with friends. I think for us, it’s always been important to have creative control and to maintain final say on images, casting and styling. It made more sense that we worked as a duo in which we could contain what we really wanted to say with our work, individually and together.”

It has been three full years of Dicker & Dane and the results have surpassed their expectations. At the beginning, Ant and Armand wrote down a vision list of what they wanted to achieve for the next ten years; three years later and their final wish, a Vogue Portugal cover (for the June print issue, The Voyage Issue) has already happened. Another one of those wishes was Ant’s dream to style an Iris van Herpen piece; lo and behold, Ant describes a chance trip to Paris, “we tried our luck and they sent four dresses down from Amsterdam to Paris, for us to shoot. It was unbelievable.” In terms of their duo-ship, Armand says “it really happened through our everyday life together. We’ll be sitting watching Drag Race or we’ll be in an uber together and we usually see something – like a piece of clothing or an object. We live in each other’s heads so much and we are so sync, so when something arises around us that piques our interest – usually a story or editorial unfolds from there. We are a bit telepathic. Even those inflatable heads for the Vogue Portugal cover, we found those in Bangkok last year and we knew that we were going to save them for something special.” This kind of unified mind is the nexus of their power together – and is why their seamless execution reaches beyond the siloed, individualistic structure that fashion production has traditionally been built upon. Together, Ant and Armand allow each other to dream bigger and better. 

For Dicker & Dane, there is a principle to their work that goes beyond the final images – even beyond the garments, or the creative features of their stories. Casting is their primary focus, particularly driven by their uncompromising view on representation and inclusion. Armand says, “I mean, Ant won’t say it himself – but I know the impact that he has scouted. Laura Ashleigh Meyer for example, at Topco, was the first differently abled model on the main board of any agency in the country. A model he found, his first shoot was with Vogue Portugal and another, their first job was with adidas in Times Square. I think we have been part of getting young, aspiring models to realise that there is a space for them in fashion. Our creative work has managed to create spaces for people –  that’s bigger for us than many of the achievements of the past and future.” 

I ask about their inclination to travel together, working and living relatively nomadically. Ant says, “I think this way of living is ingrained in me. There was a point in my childhood where we moved 12 times in two years. I was just young enough to not grasp the seriousness or stressfulness of this; for me, it was a big adventure each time – a new house, a new street, a new opportunity for exploration. I’ve kind of kept that delusion into my adulthood. I actually love being slightly unsettled in new spaces and I think it pushes me. If I spend too much time somewhere, I get a little stagnant – I am someone who could live in my lounge for the rest of my life. To make sure that happens, I think moving around is my solution to that. We absolutely love being a travelling team.” Based in Bangkok, Dicker & Dane laud the Thai consciousness for art and beauty in their everyday life. Being able to walk endlessly and take images – piqued by new and bright perspectives offered by the city – form the pulse of their current thinking and considerations in their work. For the duo, their primary focus are the Asian and European markets, each offering an endless array of possibilities.

Integrity is crucial to Ant and Armand’s practice. As Ant says, “we have very strict rules as to what’s okay and what’s not okay. Whether it’s our own set or our client’s set, those rules are the same. If I see someone in our team being disrespected by anyone on set, then we all leave set. No single job is more important than how the people who are working on it are feeling. Fashion has a bad reputation for how people get treated. Before we were in charge of the sets ourselves, we both witnessed deep disrespect to others and experienced that ourselves.” He goes on to say that, “my first shoot as a model, I didn’t realise until years later that it was an assault. When I modelled years later with Armand and we could speak about it, then I realised “oh, it’s not actually normal for a photographer to put their hands in your pants to ‘adjust you’” – so this is a big focus of ours, and every set we do starts with a conversation with the model. If anything makes them uncomfortable, or what their boundaries are, or even if they don’t want to wear something – we make sure that as a team, we understand all of those things. We take what we do very seriously but we are not brain surgeons – we can adapt and evolve on set. These rules are non-negotiable. We hold ourselves and our clients to these same standards.” This energy of safety and respect is the precise dose that fashion requires to remedy its reputation – and Dicker & Duo administer the future of fashion with stunning effect. 

As for the vision going forward, the duo have given up dreaming. Not for any reason other than as an act of trust in what they are doing. For months, it felt like things weren’t moving; until suddenly, everything they had wished for happened at once. This act of trust and flow is a profound teaching for any creative; the ability to tap into the timing that Universe seemingly lays out, rather than the timelines we decide in our minds. Dicker & Dane have achieved much, but that’s scratching the surface. Their pathway tells the tale of the highest mandate in true, sartorial consciousness.

Cover Image by @rynostols

Written by: Holly Beaton

For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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