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The (pre-)spring in JW Anderson’s leap to Loewe

Alex Fury
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A look from JW Anderon's pre-spring 2015 collection

JW Anderson’s pre-collections always bear further examination. That’s because he puts so much into them, these interim collections that have often been confined to pure commerce but which have recently expanded into fully-fledged designer statements. he puts a lot in, and reaps the rewards.

But why make such an effort? First and foremost, because Anderson is a conscientious, intelligent and above all canny designer. He recognised their importance early on: technically, he presented his first pre-fall collection, in 2012, before his first solo show (he’d only shown on-schedule via presentation until February of that same year). Pre-collection only just pipped pret-a-porter to the post, but the fact he was geared up creatively and commercially for that commitment to four womenswear collections a year, not to mention the duo of menswear shows he also showcases, is commendable. Actually, it’s gobsmacking. Anderson is only turning 30 this year.

Anderson sees his pre-collections as a way of defining what his still-young brand stands for, particularly given their constant proximity to his menswear. Anderson walked me through his pre-spring collection barely four days prior to showing his menswear – in past seasons, the menswear has been hanging on a rack in the corner, or vice-versa depending on calendar shifts. Hence it always feels like you’re getting something of a preview – even if you don’t see the other line, you know the feeling with generally be in synch. The question? What will cross from her to him – what will we see reinterpreted for men the week after?

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A JW Anderson trench-coat from pre-spring 2015

The reinterpretation is, of course, a way of emphasising an idea, and of asserting ownership of said ideas. It’s almost like Anderson is ripping off himself: this season, the dropped pockets appear for her and for him, as do the side-tied tops, the pinstripes, the twinsets fused into single garments, and the knotted and pleated stack-soled slippers. Those were Anderson’s twin statements: they were unusual because they were neither unisex, nor shockingly of either gender. They occupied this ambiguous, ill-defined space. There was something right yet wrong about them for men and for women, which made them all the more interesting.

The skew on the whole was feminine. It generally is: Anderson prefers girly boys to boyish girls. They get up more people’s noses, and provoke a reaction. He once said a great thing to me: “You need to make sure 35% of the collection is something you’re not comfortable with… if you’re comfortable, it’s stale.” I quote it endlessly, because it so perfectly sums up not only his approach, but contemporary fashion in general. Much of it can be traced back to Miuccia Prada, mistress of the provocative and perverse. Anderson is undoubtedly her disciple – he used to work for her, after all.

Back to pre-spring. You wouldn’t expect to end up talking about Digby Morton with Jonathan Anderson – but he’s kind of fixated on the designer, an Irish-born counterpart to Christian Dior well-known for contributing well-tailored, nip-waist suits to the rationed “CC41″ scheme of wartime garb. He continued into the fifties, creating sparsely elegant clothing for a refined clientele. There was a little of the Morton to Anderson’s knotted and swathed necklines and slouched skirts, and his chic belted trench-coats with cross-your-heart flaps on the chest.

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The opening look of JW Anderson's pre-spring 2015

I also saw echoes of other Irish designers – Sybil Connolly, for one, whose trademark corrugated knits were echoed in Anderson’s pre-spring collection last year. Traditional craftspeople were called upon to create ceramic jewellery, while Central Saint Martins graduate Jessica Mort (Class of 2014 – get ‘em while their hot) created painstaking, compelling and sensual handiworked textiles that begged to be manhandled. Mort’s MA show featured similar textiles chopped into rangy array of raggedy rugby-tops. Jonathan Anderson’s dad is the Irish rugger bugger Willie Anderson.

It all feels very close to home, this JW Anderson pre-spring collection. That’s the cleverest bit of all: in less than a week, Anderson presents his first collection as creative director of Loewe. This season was all about defining what his eponymous brand stands for, given that – in his own words – he’s expected to be “a bit schizophrenic” from now on.

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