LONDON, United Kingdom — Jonathan Anderson’s collections are defined by his reverence for craft and his ir-reverence about everything else. That makes for some surreal juxtapositions in his work. A linchpin of the men's collection he showed on Sunday morning was the granny square, traditionally crocheted by little old ladies who make them into big afghans that they snuggle into when winter comes. Anderson used granny squares all over, even as the tongues on slip-ons. He mentioned that, after a while, they'd started to look to him like the apps on an iPhone. What could be more Andersonian than that, the hardest tech meeting the softest touch?
Crochet and knit were, in fact, the launch pad of this new collection. Anderson said he fancied the notion of knit on knit. So there were huge floor-sweeping cardigan coats swathing fringed tops. The oversize spilled into sweaters whose sleeves defiantly drooped floorwards in a denial of anything remotely utilitarian. Again, quintessential Anderson. Perversely playful. Dr Seuss. Donnie Darko. That particular impulse is always more visible in his men's collections, where you get a sharper sense of kid's stuff. The model casting on this show skewed younger than ever. “A clean slate,” Anderson offered. Then, in an aside, he muttered something about “doomed school kids”. That's exactly the sort of dark, screwy association he excels at. Put it together with the grannies crocheting, the odd knits, the stained glass graphics suggesting cultish medievalism and you've got some weird Wicker Man occult community thing going on.
But leaving aside that particular flight of fancy and getting back to Anderson's love of craft — and art — for a minute. The new Loewe store in Madrid is a spectacular testament to his taste in that department. Here, he saluted Brit great Patrick Caulfield with the show's decor. He also drew inspiration from David Hockney's landscape-warping iPad art for the colour-washing on shirts and tunics. (“I'm obsessed with the polo shirt,” he admitted.)
Still, as I watched his boys parading past, it occurred to me that, in another age, Anderson would probably have been an artist, not a designer, a Surrealist, maybe even a Dadaist. There’s a phrase from 19th century oddball Lautreamont that the Surrealists latched onto half a century later: “As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella.” Senseless, but striking. And that’s how Anderson’s menswear went. First, the granny squares. Then, the harem pants. And if that ever starts making sense, the magic evaporates.