J.W. Anderson always stood outside of the London cocktail frock set. He started his career as a menswear designer, before segueing in womenswear. He rose to prominence just as the party dress masters - Christopher Kane, Erdem, Roksanda Ilincic and the like - were making a name. He has always stood apart, partly socially - you won’t see him hanging with the rest of the London crew, as all the others tend to - and partly aesthetically. He provoked, rather than pleased, but in term pleased because of that provocation. He goes his own way.
What a surprise then, for A/W 17, to see him pushing such arch femininity - feathers, chest-revealing cut outs, sparkles and spangles. Dresses and skirts, not trousers, were the story here. But Anderson loves to surprise. He also loves to keep his eye on the numbers, and party-wear sells. This collection was a clever mashup of commercial hits. For the monied, there are those gowns and frocks. For the less adventurous or well-heeled consumer, there were some shop-floor-ready trainers. They looked odd on the runway, but will perform well. The breathy warbling soundtrack - Anderson loves teasing us with a pointed or poignant monologue - boomed ‘Look at us but do not touch.’ That’s usually the story at many of Anderson’s shows - the pieces intrigue and inspire, but do not look like they’d have a real life off the runway - they are untouchable. Not today - ‘look at us and then touch and wear,’ would have been a less punchy but more apt lyric.