“It’s Important to Keep the Adrenaline Going”: JW Anderson on His New Show

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JW Anderson Autumn/Winter 2022
JW Anderson Autumn/Winter 2022 Menswear and Pre-Fall 2022 WomenswearCourtesy of JW Anderson

“[It’s like] bits, pieces and fragments of youth, like confetti scattered around at a house party”: Jonathan Anderson tells the story behind his playful Autumn/Winter 2022 menswear and Pre-Fall 2022 womenswear collection

“Parties that never were, parties that will be,” began the collection notes which prefaced Jonathan Anderson’s latest collection, shown as a short film this past weekend. The words felt pertinent – just a week or so prior to a planned physical show at Milan Fashion Week, Anderson was forced to cancel it due to the logistical difficulties of travelling in the midst of Europe’s Omicron outbreak (adding to that list of “parties that never were”, a celebratory Milanese after-party was also put on pause).

Nevertheless, when we speak over Zoom a couple of days prior to the film being aired – at that point not yet shot – Anderson remains upbeat, determined that working in rapidly changing conditions is now a necessary requirement of being a fashion designer. Anderson’s intricate show-in-a-box concept, begun at the start of the pandemic and delivered to attendees’ front doors as a way to mimic the physicality of being at a runway show, was proof that he is better adept at this than most. “In a weird way, it’s very humbling,” he says. “In fashion, we are usually so much in control. What is great about this is there’s no control. You just have to go with the punches.”

So on Friday, he and his team decamped not to Milan, but to Scala, a former cinema between King’s Cross and Camden which now operates as a nightclub and music venue (its warren of hallways and bars were particularly frequented by indie and electro kids in the late 2000s and early 2010s, an era in fashion that is currently having a comeback). Models were filmed walking through the corridors, aptly dressed for an evening out – albeit sans any fellow revellers – in a collection which Anderson deemed “bits, pieces and fragments of youth, like confetti scattered around at a house party”.

“It kind of plays with the angst of experimenting with clothing, which I find exciting,” he explains. “I think it’s important that you keep the adrenaline going within fashion, that’s what I like about this collection. There’s something that’s a bit silly, a bit childlike, a bit blunt. The idea of a kaleidoscopic blur is important.”

And so there were slick high-shine leggings, for men and women, sequinned football shirts and matching shorts (he had recently watched a documentary on Cristiano Ronaldo, seeing the “performance of a footballer as a camp act”), tops with “hula hoop” hemlines which looped around the body and through the legs, polo shirts which turned into a smock, then a dress, then an all-in-one. Accessories were typically idiosyncratic: pigeon-shaped purses grasped in the hand like a clutch, shearling handbags, crocheted soft-toy elephants, chunky mary janes for men.

For Anderson, the collection was a return to what he calls “the label’s core values” – one of which he describes as a preoccupation with “anxious youth”, the moment on the precipice of adulthood where you begin to experiment with who you want to be. There is a suggestion in his recent work that the pandemic has caused this feeling to extend beyond just the young – what will we wear when we go out into the world again? Who is the person that we want to be? Will we be the same, or different? “Going out with friends becomes this odd type of fantasy, that may or may not happen,” Anderson says. “So in a weird way, this collection is working out my own personal angst.”

Of the presentation itself, put together in just over a week, Anderson says that it feels like he’s going all the way back to the beginning, to the late nights and borrowed favours of when he first began showing JW Anderson over a decade ago. “There’s no rules, it’s random, you’ve got to think on your toes,” he says. “But I love the collection. Ultimately, no matter what this becomes, no matter what the content will be, the looks are what I want them to be. They feel like me. They feel like JW Anderson.”