Taking to Milan to debut his latest menswear collection under his eponymous label, JW Anderson built on the surrealist narrative that has been bubbling away in his designs throughout his career, but perhaps reaching a boiling point in recent seasons.
For Loewe, we saw cracked-egg heels and car-dresses, and for this season at JW Anderson, a whole host of objects-turned-wearable garments. From broken skate deck sweaters and bike handlebars wrapped up in a jumper, to poncho-like pieces that looked almost like ocean sponges, it was an in your face collection designed to cause a stir – but this was not just shock for shock’s sake.
Recalling his early career as an actor, Anderson’s collection was inspired by The Pitchfork Disney – a play by Philip Ridley, and one which Anderson performed at an audition which made him realise he was in the wrong profession. As well as grounding this weekend’s proceedings in his own personal history, the inferences were made explicit when considering the play’s reception, which saw members of the audience faint at its premiere in the 90s: Anderson wanted to harness this same shock factor – “the shock of theatre”.
Within this context, JW Anderson set out to test perceptions – what constitutes clothes? What about objects? What happens when you blend them? And perhaps most importantly, what does this say about this singular, current consumerist way of living, and about modernity at large?
Yes, breaking skate decks and having them poke out of specially-designed pockets in a fuzzy sweater, or taking handlebars away from the bike and enacting new shoulder blades for the models creates interesting silhouettes, structures and gets people talking about JW Anderson’s ‘wacky’ designs. But surely more interesting are these design choices as commentary on the fleeting nature of modernity: broken, discarded, forgotten – will these objects become symbols of the past as quickly as they rose to prominence?
Pushing the narrative further was the incorporation of technology and technological references into the collection. A stock photo of a kid eating an apple screen printed onto a striped tee, a partially-revealed barcode, or innovative print techniques which took classical allusions and pasted them on to ‘modern’ clothing reminded attendees of the present moment – where arts, culture and technology intersect to produce new outcomes of creativity. If the presence is of utmost importance in this intersection, then JW Anderson reminds us that what’s important now is only going to change, and change again – we may as well just appreciate it while it’s here.
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