JW Anderson is keen to carve out a career as fashion’s most cultured, cultivated man. He’s filling his Loewe stores with pottery and iconic furniture designs, taking the fashion pack off to Cambridge’s acclaimed house-cum-gallery Kettle’s Yard for his resort presentation and pontificating on topics backstage that even the most seasoned fashion reporter couldn’t comprehend. Some brands have a veneer of intellectualism that surrounds them - Prada is one, Marni another - JW Anderson is clearly hoping to be seen in the same league. Today read like an ode to the eccentricities and eclecticism of intellectual men - the odd habits, routines and passions of geeky, sensitive boys, from collecting to obsessing about space. Everything felt considered, researched, philosophical. It was strangely impenetrable, but oddly warm at the same time. The best elements were the raw, naive ones - the barely-there top furnished with two brilliant white feathers or the scraps of raw fabric that held up trousers or pulled in waists on jackets. The collection was weakened by items masquerading as points of interest that were really superfluous and fussy - though no doubt Anderson could do a good job of explaining them. The man-bags-cum-mobiles featuring metal knick-knacks should have been edited out - the notion of the objects we collect and treasure, however valueless, and how it comes to define us, could have been suggested and explored in better ways. They felt forced.
The Park, a brilliant piece by the equally brilliant composer Robert Ashley was on the soundtrack. That work has been celebrated as a masterpiece of peace and simplicity, noted for the intense, emotive effect on listeners. Featuring Ashley’s own mesmerising voice, it went on to become the opening segment of his seven part TV opera, Perfect Lives. ‘There is something like the feeling of silk scarves in the air,’ read Ashley. Was Anderson trying to channel some of that sense of calm and wondrous stillness? Perhaps. There was certainly a sense of purity, evident in the humble denim, the vaguely futuristic white quilted sweatshirts and jackets, and the boxy uniform elements. But Ashley was repeatedly interrupted by the opening bars of Madonna’s infamous Bedtime Stories. A hint of seduction and naughtiness within an otherwise boyish, almost asexual, chilly collection. Some items hinted at something a bit rebellious - the sharp leather jackets with punchy zips, the free strokes of paint across trousers and the jazzy patterns. At points you just wanted Madonna to break through, just like you wanted Anderson to let rip, throw out any overzealously sombre, overworked elements and go for it with the same wit and naughtiness he used to. But maybe holding back, and thus pushing a sombre, highbrow mood, was the point. As Ashley read, 'He is determined to be serious.’