jw anderson was walking on clouds for autumn/winter 19

The Northern Irish designer presented a collection of elevated, awkward, English glamour.

by Felix Petty
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19 February 2019, 4:13pm

Following on from a landmark men’s collection show in Paris in January, this JW Anderson show was another leap forward for the designer. This was an incredible show of pure fashion, of mastery, craft, elegance, refinement. Easily one of Jonathan’s more mature and assured and confident collections.

It was inspired, in part, he explained backstage, by a desire to carry on the motion and feeling from that aforementioned men’s show -- the “kineticness” of fashion, he called it, the fact it is constantly changing and pushing forward.

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But in many respects, rather than being a collection rooted in conceptual ideas, it was a collection about fashion itself. Its transformative glamour and architectural power. The cut and volume of a coat, the drape of a dress. Its ability to turn heads. It was a collection, specifically, “about exploring polar opposites” -- which is a very JW Anderson thing -- specifically elegance and awkwardness, the sky and the earth, solidness and lightness.

The models walked out across shaggy cream carpeting, dotted with rocks. The set was meant to feel like a little zen garden, with its rocks in the sand. But it could just as easily be about the “model walking on clouds”, Jonathan suggested. “The rocks could also be the tops of mountains. I wanted to do something that was about finding this fantasy and imagination in fashion.”

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Guests were risen up high above the catwalk in a square, like spectators at an arena, able to witness everything from every angle as the models criss-crossed the carpet. The setting drew in part on Samuel Beckett’s play Quad, a musical-mime piece created by the Irish existentialist that features characters roaming back and forth around a square. Like all Beckett’s works, a comment on the strange, funny and depressing tragicomedy of life itself.

And fashion too? Well we’ve all seen people wandering back and forth aimlessly and meaninglessly at a few shows over the years. But not here -- this felt like a very un-satirical collection, even as it gently and loving questioned fashion’s formalisms. Jonathan suggested that at its root this was a collection of clothes about awkwardness and finding the beauty in things that are a little off, which is a very zen concept really.

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The models didn’t make a perfect loop of the square, for instance, instead zig-zagging across it. Riding hats sat elevated off the head, as if they’d been sliced into. The hats elongated the looks and made everything feel a little grander, and grandiose. The coats could be worn in five or six different ways, and could come apart, be reassembled. Shoes trailed spindles of fluffy tulle behind them. There was something “mineral” in it all, Jonathan said, cryptically. “It was about pairing the wrong belt with the wrong jacket,” but “creating this kind of awkward elegance from that,” Jonathan explained. “You know, it’s very British, this idea, everything’s a bit awkward here.” Beauty is boring if it comes too easily.

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