At his last menswear show in January, J.W.Anderson combined playful social media, gender-neutral dressing (silk pyjamas, Björk hair and chokers) and pre-web style designs (cartoon snails). As well as being a playground of ideas, the show demonstrated his position as the designer who best taps into the millennial’s mindset.
But on the third day of the menwear week in London collections men, Anderson’s spring/summer 2017 show was different. Fresh from a collaboration with the rapper A$AP Rocky that referenced the mood for all things 1970s, there was a sense on Sunday of a sea change for the designer.
Backstage he spoke of stripping back ideas he has played with since his debut menswear collection in 2008. And despite the appearance of handbags and one dress, this Anderson felt less about agenda setting and more about retreating into a place of almost pre-gendered peace, childhood.
As the crowd gathered in the the school assembly-like setting of the hall in Yeomanry House, the voice of David Bowie narrating Peter and the Wolf sounded over the PA as the models began walking. The moral of the story – you can’t succeed unless you take risks – was felt very much part of Anderson’s raison d’être.
It was an avalanche of ideas and the designs were a typically combustible mix. Layering was a big theme, there were tunic tops featuring designs such as a circle of minotaurs holding hands and Picassoesque eyes worn over quarter length trousers – some in warm storm colours, others in pink and purple tartans and monochrome polka dots. There were dress shirts which combined clay-coloured jigsaw patterns with freakish purple cartoon faces and a black calf-length jacket with the zips taking refuge on the arms rather than down the middle.
What was interesting to note too was there were more conservative outfits (a dark blue bomber jacket over a longer denim jacket and all-in-one navy black coveralls pinched at the waist) that, as his collaboration with A$AP Rocky again proved, Anderson could do his take on “normal” too.
With the idea of childhood looming large, the eclectic mix – of elements that do not typically work together but here formed something else entirely – tapped into the idea of wilful toddler playing in the sandbox. While some of the oversized garments like the two-tone polo neck in heart red and sky blue with sleeve that went way beyond the end of the hand, suggested a kid trying on the clothes of a parent.
But there were also explicit references to prepuberty; silver medallions on bags, orange coloured underwater goggles, models wearing crowns made of interconnected squares, logos of cartoon stick figures that all fit with the overriding theme of fragmentary preadolescence, Anderson combining all these disparate textures and elements to replicate the nonlinear memory moments of all our collective preadolescences. “How do you escape nostalgia, because that’s boring?” he asked rhetorically backstage after the show. With this collection he had answered his own question.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010