A Great Collection

J.W. Anderson really moved me this season. And I've had to wait a while to review the collection because it blew me away in a way I didn't understand at all. Since February I've been thinking about it every couple of days, and trying to figure out what makes it a great collection. And I really do mean great! I'm getting the same feelings I had gazing upon Christopher Kane S/S12 or Prada S/S11.

So why was J.W. Anderson so wonderful this season? Perhaps it is to do with that fact it was new in the subtlest and most fundamental sense. It did not feel new because, say, orientalism hasn't been around in a while or it rehashed minimalism or because its influences had not been cited before. It was like a seismic shift - there may not have been an earthquake but you're definitely not standing in the same spot on earth as you were a day ago.

The "newness" could lie in the way that Anderson created fresh forms. Sarah Mower reported that Anderson and his stylist "had been working on a lot of abstract techniques with fabric in the studio on Shacklewell Lane, guided only by whether the results seemed genuinely new to their eyes". Here the necklines creep up, pant legs hang as if wet, skirt hems transform into mere decorative elements, and everywhere lines of fabric were flapping and billowing in unexpected places. While explorations of form often amount to an experimental collection, unwearable in the everyday sense, Anderson hasn't compromised on the real life of the clothes, the fact that they are worn and lived in. Sure some of these looks wouldn't be seen on the street, but the majority would fit in surprisingly well. While I love a designer that pushes the limits of what clothes can be, what I admire most are those clothes that are simultaneously entirely new and entirely practical - which is rarer than you'd think.

Allusions to hospital gowns, arms strapped down by a knitted oversleeve, and lines of fabric flapping loose all conjure images of the psyche ward, emphasised by, as Maya Singer writes, "a fit of derangement" in the form of two comic-print looks. This enhances the contemporary feel, the madness is specific to the volatile teen years and so perhaps speaks to a younger audience. Indeed the deranged, visual shout of the comic-print cameo reminded me of the book by Jeff Daniels of The Mountain Goats, about a psyche ward-ridden teenager who is obsessed with Black Sabbath's Master of Reality.

Having said that, there was ultimately no straightforward narrative to this collection, no story of a girl or a city or a decade. When Maya Singer asked about the "atmosphere of lunacy" Anderson talked about the physical disruption of the clothes' construction rather than narrative - "he spoke not of reality suspension but of architectural suspension". Every review used words like "mysterious" and "puzzling" and "incomprehensible", but rather than being dismissed for being too hard, too opaque, the collection keeps one intrigued.

Before I sign off I also have to quote the last line from Maya Singer's review (man I'm quoting others a lot in this post aren't I?) because when I read it it affirmed my thoughts precisely, I wanted to ring up Singer there and then and say "yes, exactly".

"This collection was interpretable in any number of ways. But the clear takeaway was that it was captivating, original, modern, and great."

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