Jonathan Anderson loves to keep us all guessing. While he’ll happily give an interview to anyone who’ll have him – he’s as talented a propagandist as he is a designer – his collections remain somewhat shrouded in mystery. Aptly, given he cut his teeth as a window dresser at Prada before hitting the fashion big time, he often opts for the Miuccia Prada tactic of saying he was actually going right, when we’ve all already written that the collection was about going left. Case in point was last season’s fetishistic, frilly affair – a lesson in gender bending in the fashion squad’s eyes, but, oh no, a comment on proportion in Jonathan’s. It’s a smart tactic, one that ensures his supporters, and critics, talk and talk and talk about his work the whole season through, trying, and often failing, to decipher what’s going on. Hype is important in fashion and Anderson knows how to generate it.
But that’s no criticism, and nor is it a suggestion that Anderson is simply there to shock. Instead, he’s willing, and eager, to open up conversations and debates about the direction of menswear and fashion in general – an invaluable quality in a young designer. He’s not prepared to sit back and trot out a collection based around the way men currently dress – what’s the point? – by contrast, for S/S 14, he was keep to champion ‘the awkward self’. So there was no polished macho suiting or shirts on today’s runway. There weren’t even any sleeves. Instead, he showed baggy oversized trousers and tunic tops, some long-line to the hips and some cropped on the chest. While some found the lanky, teenage ‘growing pains’ vibe of the collection uncomfortable – ‘where were the gorgeous wearable knits?’ they asked – it raises the question of why we are fearful of or shocked by clothing that doesn’t enhance or bolster machismo using the body – whether with a traditional suit, with all its codes of money and social standing, or baggy torso-boosting and shoulder-enhancing sportswear. On the womenswear catwalks it’s nothing new to see fashions that mask or toy with traditional notions of femininity and the sexual appeal the female form – indeed we’re all praising it, happy to see the death of the bust-enhancing cocktail frock – so isn’t it about time to get our heads around a genuine reconsideration of the codes of masculinity?