LONDON, United Kingdom — Relevance. J.W Anderson cares about it, which seems like an odd concern for him, given that he has built one of the most relevant careers in fashion by not seeming to care about contemporaneity. But when you don’t care, others do the caring for you.
That would also seem to be one of the messages of Fran Lebowitz’s career. The New York writer’s apercus, lifted from a documentary Martin Scorsese made about her, were interjected into Michel Gaubert’s soundtrack, which underscored Anderson’s collections as a work of cultural archaeology. You could almost envisage the stuff he showed this afternoon as a kind of time capsule. The warp and woof of other eras echoed through the clothes.
That’s why Anderson is a sci-fi designer. He projects the future from the past. And, right in the middle — the present — sits his show, this single moment that will be rapidly replaced in the consciousness of the fashion industry by something else in an hour, a day. So, to make it as unforgettable as possible, he chokes it with uncompromising reference. A spectrum of womenswear all at once.
Today, the sternness of an Edwardian leg ’o’ mutton sleeve vs the breast-iness of a baby bandeau, the 21stcentury chillax of sheer workout wear vs the squiggliness of the Haring/Westwood collab in the 1980s. A pencil skirt that was straight out of a 1940’s film noir, followed by the fragility of a lace top matched to a tarty pelmet mini. When Anderson called his collection an “odyssey”, the journey from there to here instantly made sense: a designer’s odyssey, drifting from beginning to end on a pleasurable floodtide of perverse associations.
You start to believe that Anderson’s essence is tension. Making sense of what he shows is surely a test for the buyers of the industry. But for anyone else who isn’t compelled by commercial considerations, his odysseys are London’s most riveting.
Yes, he thinks too much, which is the sort of thing worried parents have been sayng since woman first gave birth. Today, Anderson’s steadfast refusal to downgrade his intellectual activity meant that he made cotton outfits that looked like leather, leather outfits that looked like rubber, because their production processes were so complicated that they couldn’t be duplicated in the wider commercial universe of let’s-copy-JDubs. He said he wanted something “airtight”. So far, so sci-fi. The wonder is that women are going to want these things, to be sealed into this universe.