People are not used to seeing this side of JW Anderson. In a chat backstage, the designer described the show as “something that feels a bit more energetic, something that goes against conforming to a look… Bottom line is it was built around party girls.” The designer has always had a tendency to be cryptic backstage, perhaps deliberately so as to reward only those who are willing to meet him halfway. Understandably words can sometimes reduce the potency of his visual expression and do it great injustice. But just from the breadcrumbs Anderson provided, today’s show couldn’t be a farther departure from the men’s in January, which revolved around heavy dystopian concepts and notions of pataphysics.
For one, Anderson allowed himself more freedom this time. Referencing the general exuberance of the 80s and the inkling to letting loose have given him the liberty to breathe, not be constrained by the very conventions that he has built thus far. “I think it’s important to break the codes you’ve created,”said the designer. Metallic lurex and silk blend, patent leather, rounded oversized shoulders and patterned motifs that vibrated like Carlos Cruz Diez's prints all signaled towards 80’s boogie. On the music, he added, “I like that idea that you get a track and you’re obsessed by it, and you listen to it over and over again to get you in the mood to go out.” Although Anderson didn’t go as far as playing Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”, he did opt for another 1981 track, “Seconds” by British synthpop band The Human League. One would say it’s very JW Anderson to choose a bleak track about the assassination of J.F. Kennedy for a party.
The offbeat symphony of a stark colour palette, graphic lines, and geometric shapes (especially in the accessories) also brought to mind Michael Clark’s dance spectacles. Incidentally there was a lot more movement in this collection especially in the metallic fringe skirts in looks 13 and 32. But Anderson didn’t seem to fancy the idea of boxing the collection into the historicism of the 80s too much. After all, it was about emancipating from constrictions. He encouraged the view of spontaneity instead: “It was the idea of finding something; that you could find a jumper, and you could put it together into the look. Or you could take something from previous collections.
Truth be told you could read the collection as a remix of his greatest hits, whether it was the Japonaiserie, the tactility of his fabrics or the sci-fi elements. But for once there were no subliminal messages to be had, just an invitation from Anderson to groove and savour the freedom.