An Artist's Impression

Very few shows at London Fashion Week still evoke genuine interest like Anderson's – a feeling of anticipation and privilege that you are about to witness something truly special unfold. Always the contrarian, Anderson is testament to why designers should be allowed the 6 months for their ideas to fully incubate. His propositions are well baked, with occasions of self-referencing, sometimes even irony. The show’s pace could be described as meditative with ample time spent editing any wayward strokes that might threaten to break the fantasy. This season the Northern Irish designer delved into the medieval times, citing Tudor shapes and Henry VIII. The breadth of references and the depth of his collections contrast the instant gratification from the ”see-now-buy-now” muppetry plaguing the catwalks recently.

 

J.W. Anderson Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in London

 

Even when Anderson employs pyrotechnics, it has been with a deliberate hand. His men's Fall/Winter 2016 show that was live streamed via the Grindr dating app echoed themes of sexual freedom in the collection. A classic moment of Medium is the Message whilst at the same time bolstering the belief that fashion shows should be more democratic, accessible to anyone who might be interested. The same applies to his guests. It’s been several seasons now that Anderson had seated all of the editors front row, high priestess of Vogue or otherwise. In a way, it shifts the focus from the power plays that often define these shows to the garments on display. It's all part of Anderson's world, and as you peel the many layers you'd find his point of view intact. Themes of working class, egalitarianism, anachronism, freedom, even the extraterrestrial, ebb in and out of the different seasons, all holding up to close scrutiny. It is the mark of a class act.

Backstage, Anderson seemed more at ease than usual, dressed comfortably in a t-shirt and jeans. Let's not forget the man wears many hats, straddling Loewe and his namesake label, so he has every reason to look frazzled. But instead he appeared as someone familiar with the drill, fielding questions from journalists effortlessly. That said, it did not make Anderson’s responses any less cryptic. He speaks like he designs, in abstract terms that observe little linear logic. Such is the charm, however – streams of consciousness that reflect exactly his thought process. 

 

J.W. Anderson Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in London

 

“I like the idea of using something so abstract. I quite like the heightened reality of it – something solar, feminine, empowering. Finding a new way to put in masculinity but still relatable,” he said. Of course, the solar reference points to the gradient dyes on the linen cut on the bias that arguably stole the show. It lent the collection a certain lightness rarely seen on the designer's runway. Ed Ruscha-esque sunsets cascade like crimson skies on an epic road trip, befitting of the opening song choice “Like a Motorway” by Saint Etienne. The clothes had plenty of movement this time, jiving to Michael Gaubert’s choice of Dream Pop synths by the end. In summation Anderson simply quipped, “Calm, something calm. Tranquil.”

 

J.W. Anderson Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in London

 

He clarified, “There are obvious references to Henry VIII. I like the idea of a woman wearing something so masculine. I like the idea of taking a relic and taking something that is incredibly heavy to pair with something incredibly light, raw, and organic – the linen. We looked at different kinds of construction from that period and engineered modernity into it.” He paused mid-sentence to greet Derek Blasberg before continuing, “In that period a lot of things were double faced. They became almost like undergarments that you can then put another layer on top. It’s not lingerie but something more sophisticated. You have symmetry but you also have things cut on the side.”

 

J.W. Anderson Women Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2017 in London

 

While it is unjust to reduce Anderson’s collection to a particular decade, it’s hard to ignore the parallels to 80’s optimism and power dressing. The appropriation of masculinity into women’s fashion is highly reminiscent of shoulder pads and tailored looks that once placed women in equal standing to men in the workplace. Perhaps it's very topical as we witness a reprise of an 80's classic, Hillary versus Trump, the former very much an emblem of both the career woman but also of power suiting, while the latter of the Type-A misogynist.

80's or medieval, one supposes the real difference is that Anderson is an artist. And by extension his clothes are best described as artisanal, with real poetry, with gravity. It is through this prism that it is then fathomable how the designer balances helming the Spanish luxury superbrand and his own label. His ability to maintain a clear vision despite the many touch points is a feat that does not go unnoticed. Unlike a pop star making a quick segue into fashion, Anderson continues to prove he’s the real deal with mileage. It's hardly a surprise then that when Reuters reported rumours of Nicolas Ghesquière's potential departure from Louis Vuitton a few months ago, Anderson was the critic's choice to hold the industry’s most coveted throne.

 

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