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Show Report

Show Report: JW Anderson A/W 16 Menswear

by Lou Stoppard on 11 January 2016

Lou Stoppard reports on the JW Anderson A/W 16 menswear show.

Lou Stoppard reports on the JW Anderson A/W 16 menswear show.

There's whiffs of JW Anderson in everyone's work right now - not just young designers, fresh out of college, but the big names too. Gucci are claiming ownership of the gender fluidity moment right now, but Anderson put men in lace and frills before anyone else (indeed, today there was plenty on offer for women, or for men who like womenswear.) As he himself says, he’s a creative director, not a designer, and the many references and ideas he’s clashed and curated over his (short) career have seeped out into the fashion landscape. But that cross-pollination of ideas is what he loves. Anderson is a designer who borrows - when accepting his Womenswear Designer of the Year British Fashion Award, just moments after getting the Menswear gong, he said somewhat pointedly, ‘I want to thank all designers, past, present and future, which ultimately I get inspiration from. We live in post modernist fashion.’ So he’d probably not have a problem with it being pointed out that this collection had whiffs of other menswear leaders’ work. A bit Raf. A lot Miuccia. His work is about the conversation that's happening across fashion - he gives to it, and he takes from it. It's what makes his collections feel so relevant.

As well as picking and choosing from elsewhere, it looked like Anderson had been borrowing from his own archive. Those collars reminded me of the little latex ones he used to make early in his career, while the camel and grey tones harked back to that frilly career-defining collection from S/S 13 - the one that won him the crown as fashion’s ultimate provocateur and showman. Talking of courting press, rather than ruffling our feathers with men in ruffles, for A/W 16 Anderson had chosen to make a splash by streaming his collection on Grindr, the gay dating app. That’s using the word ‘dating’ lightly - for most users, it’s a convenient way of sourcing sex fast. You could make parallels between the fast and arguably unromantic online/phone dating scene and the current concerns about the pace of the fashion industry. Maybe that’s what Anderson was doing with his Grindr hook-up. Unlikely - Anderson, both in his fashion and in his communication strategy, knows that gimmicks win column inches. We perhaps read too much into his emblems, twists and surprises. 

Indeed, many will probably interpret hidden messages in those snail motifs that littered much of today’s collection. Is Anderson looking to slow down? After all, last season, his soundtrack featured Fran Lebowitz commenting, ‘the media requires there be a new genius every season. You would be very lucky if in your whole life you saw the work of one genius.’ Again, unlikely. Those snails were just another of his artfully employed visual curiosities and oddities. His work is attractive because it’s often haphazard and strange, not necessarily because it’s smart. Indeed, this season actually felt less deliberately ‘intellectual’ than usual - it was playful, even. This was sportier and sexier than Anderson’s other recent work. Michel Gaubert’s soundtrack informed us that ‘the techno rave is back’ - apt, the party spirit was visible in that shimmering fabric and that showy gold hoop jewellery. In fact that jewellery looked a touch fetishistic on closer inspection. So too did those studs that littered collars and PVC chokers. Maybe one can read into Anderson’s Grindr collaboration after all…

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