Designers rarely wear the clothing they design. Mary Katrantzou is regularly seen in black shift dresses; Karl Lagerfeld opts for Dior Homme tailoring; Demna Gvasalia possesses an understated dress code. Irish designer Jonathan Anderson sticks to a navy cashmere sweater and blue jeans, perhaps Converse footwear. There are exceptions to this theory. Jonathan Anderson experimented with something different in his Spring 2018 menswear collection presented days ago at Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy at the Villa La Pietra. (His absence from the London Fashion Week Men’s calendar was noted.) He described the show as a fantasy of sorts, an imagining of how he likes to dress and present himself in the summer months. It was possibly his most authentic work to date and also his most commercial.
With the stunning backdrop of the renaissance villa, the show began at dusk. His troops: dewy models, roughly aged nineteen proceeded to walk the catwalk in an evocative procession. There were familiar shapes and ideas. He expanded his interest in patchwork, applying it to taupe macintosh jackets; there was a reissuing of his ‘JW’ anchor logo sweatshirt, recognisably the most commercial piece; logo t-shirts, permeating the show with a hint of bad taste—the graphics resembled the iconic Coca Cola logo. Anderson is a master of capturing a mood. Spring and summer of 2018. He avoided the recently popularised trans-seasonal approach, prioritising the season at hand and presenting the archetypal summer wardrobe.
It evoked thoughts of Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s oeuvre—in particular, 2015’s A Bigger Splash and the upcoming Call Me By Your Name, both filmed amidst the spectacular Italian vistas. On the note of Call Me By Your Name, it played on Anderson’s penchant for imbuing his work with homoerotic notes—the film examines a gay relationship between a 17- and 24-year-old. (In the past he’s collaborated with Grindr; most of his handbags are accented with a cock ring detail; his website sells many homoerotic ‘artefacts’, for lack of a better word.) The designer noted the sexuality of Florence, the recurrence of nakedness across the city; he declared it the “most sexual of cities”.
However, this wasn’t reflected overtly in the collection. The clothing was more influenced by the tourists Anderson speaks of, basing his interpretation of them on his wardrobe. Denims used here were inspired by ones Anderson had in his wardrobe for years, ones we see him wearing at the end of his shows when he takes a victory lap. There was the simplicity of a crisp white t-shirt and beige-coloured shorts, a fringed beach bag in hand; an orange logo t-shirt and denim shorts. Bells and whistles no longer, Anderson stripped everything down to pieces that could be found in anyone’s wardrobe.
Truly, this was a toned down collection. There weren’t many exhilarating delights as there usually is. There were some of the recurring Anderson idiosyncrasies and challenges to stereotypical notions of masculinity, but they were few. It wasn’t gripping but it was beautiful. It was pedestrian, not thrillingly perverse but it did amplify Anderson’s ability to create confident commercial clothing.