The reaction of non-fashion folk to contemporary fashion is predictable. Victoria Beckham, Michael Kors earn thumbs up from those uninvolved with the industry. The clothes are easy, beautiful and familiar. When you show someone J.W. Anderson, Comme, or Margiela in its current iteration, you’re generally met with unanimous head-scratching. Those, realistically, aren’t the clothes that most of us are exposed to on the streets. Many men don’t wear dresses, women choose not to wear coats with more sleeves than two. The trickier the clothes get, the harder they are to present to the masses. But that’s the beauty of great fashion isn’t it? It’s a secret club bubbling with ideas—although there are commercial traps to entice a specific consumer.
J.W. Anderson’s recent menswear collection was as polarising as expected. Presenting it to my father, he was bemused by the wackiness of it all. Combing through the looks quickly, it will appear as an acid-trip of colours, dresses for men, crowns and goggles, but when scrolled through slowly, each look brings something to the consumer; whether that be a great black coat, a well-tailored pair of trousers or a navy bomber jacket. But those were the saleable points; it would be far too boring to discuss. The boatload of ideas is where the focus should be at.
Reusing the set from the womenswear show in February, Anderson reintroduced the concept of “confrontation”. In tight interior spaces, single rows of guests watched as models stormed corners and charged towards them. David Bowie’s narration of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s recording of Serge Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf was the opening soundtrack for the show. An engaging start.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s children’s novel The Little Prince was the chief inspiration for the show. Artist Richard X. Zawitz crafted broken crowns seated atop the model’s heads. In dark times we live; the childlike inspiration is a timely, fitting response to the world around us—Anderson has always offered an escape from normality, this collection was no exception. Models wore misshapen crowns, dresses, futuristic boxing boots (a run-on idea from last season), dresses with overlong sleeves (fashion’s current obsession), abstract prints—together it was an odd melange, but it’s unexciting any other way.
Anderson was one of the first purveyors of gender-bending fashion. His Fall 2013 featured dresses, boob tubes and ruffled skirts for men. Daring, it was. It drew ire from critics and non-fashion press alike. But as Jo-Ann Furniss wrote when that collection was presented, “it is intended to reconfigure both menswear and womenswear, and to give a kick up the arse to the stale state of much of men’s fashion at the moment.” Once a provocateur, always a provocateur: Jonathan Anderson continues to do this today. Frankly, we’ve come to expect it of him. He is unashamedly reconfiguring the modern man in ways unseen heretofore. He is undoubtedly inspiring thousands of others to follow in the same footsteps—“a man in a dress”, J.W. did it three years ago.
Some may criticise Anderson for following childlike inspirations in this collection; chastising him for disregard of current cultural and political climates. There are are two worthy counter-arguments to this. Firstly, Anderson’s response to gender-norms and redefining those is wholly important. Secondly, fashion draws on sadness often, happiness deserves a chance on the runway. This collection, presented prior to Brexit, was one of the last opportunities to spread positivity and happiness—even if there was a smothering of ideas.
Assimilation is difficult when you’re in a cramped space and models zoom past at light speed. There are no chances for iPhone photography, or the checking of emails and text messages. You watch the show or you miss it, simple as. That’s why he’s so exceptional and still has the most highly anticipated show of fashion week—men’s and women’s. You have to focus intensely or else you’ll miss his collagist methodology that never ceases to polarise, enthral, frustrate, tantalise.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com