jw anderson blurs the binary as “craft goes machine”
Jonathan Anderson returned to his gender-fluid beginnings and demonstrated just how far he’s come.
Photography Sam Hellmann
For spring/summer 20, JW Anderson returned to his gender-fluid beginnings and elevated them for today. Back in 2012, Northern Ireland-born Jonathan Anderson was one of the first designers of his generation to challenge conventions of masculinity in high fashion. Who can forget the moment he put boys in frilled neoprene shorts and bustiers? Confidently walking the tightrope of taste, there were aspects that seduced some and repulsed others, but we were always united in our intrigue. Now cemented as one of the industry’s leading creative directors, this season sees him take his early work to another level.
“I liked the idea of tuxedo tape blowing off and falling away,” Jonathan explained post-show when quizzed about the sartorial shapeshifting across the collection. “Or to take a jacket and slash it. It’s a look for both men and women.” Ever true to the brand’s signature theme of a shared wardrobe, the show featured a mix of looks from men’s spring/summer 20 and women’s resort 20, with pieces suitable for everyone regardless of gender. “It’s taken me a while to understand what a ruffled short could look like today. For me, it’s about both men and women being able to show flesh. There’s something sensual for everyone, all shapes, all sizes.” Moving beyond the sex of collections past, there was a sense of stripped back sensuality here. Sensuality and considered craft.
“After the autumn/winter 19 womenswear collection, in which we looked at 40s silhouettes and the idea of blowing up proportions, I wanted to carry that through into the men’s and build upon it in the pre women’s collection,” Jonathan told us from a quiet corner of the Lafayette Anticipations. Ordinarily a contemporary art space, his adopted show venue featured works of art personally curated by him. Pre-show guests disturbed the hanging porcelain of Kate Newby and paused over the mesh mechanics of Harry Kramer. “I like this idea of craft going machine,” Jonathan told us with a smile. It’s a phrase that Anderson stans (Standersons?) will be familiar with, noting that it was used at the start of his career too.
Here, he balanced hand-me-down chic -- DIY memories of knitting kits, his sister slashing T-shirts and applying plastic beads to them -- with the finest finishing possible today. “There’s modernity in the wrongness,” he winked. “In our last women’s show, we had a lot of raw edges and I wanted to mirror that but also show more precision. With a knitted piece, it is crafted and it isn’t ‘part’ of something. It is whole on its own.” From crown-shaped head-pieces, full-length tunics and spliced latticed cardigans, next level knits were a recurring theme and hinted at the lessons learned at Loewe.
“For me, this was all about silhouette,” he explained, echoing what he told us after the display of pure elegance that was JW Anderson autumn/winter 19 womenswear, shown in London this February. “It wasn’t a styling exercise but a silhouette exercise, something that I enjoyed working on in the women’s collection,” he added. This season was a reminder of JW Anderson’s core values, and a reflection on just how far the brand has come.
Photography Sam Hellmann