JW Anderson A/W20 Was All About Taking Up Space

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JW Anderson Autumn/Winter 2020 Jonathan Anderson LFW
JW Anderson Autumn/Winter 2020Photography by Paul Phung

Jonathan Anderson was thinking about “volume and movement” for his eponymous brand’s Autumn/Winter 2020 womenswear collection

Last season, Jonathan Anderson insisted that there was no “underlying message” to his Spring/Summer 2020 collection for his eponymous label, JW Anderson. “It’s just about looking. Maybe we should just enjoy the idea of looking, enjoy the experience,” he said.

The same sentiment could well apply to his Autumn/Winter 2020 collection, which was shown in London’s Yeomanry House yesterday afternoon. As a designer, he seems to be working on a new, cerebral plane; the tidy thematics of previous collections replaced with a freewheeling approach which confounds easy definition. It is true of both his collections at his eponymous label and Loewe, where he is creative director: his collections have become something like a stream of consciousness, with Anderson working on instinct to push outwards into bold new directions and forms.

Yesterday, the designer said, via the collection’s notes, that this season had begun with a consideration of “volume and movement”. He elucidated a little further backstage after the show – he had been thinking about his models, walking out on to the runway. “You have to walk into a space of strangers,” he said. “How do you compete with the space?”

In the collection, an answer came in a trio of vast trapezoid jackets with “exploded” shawl collars, out of which the models’ heads peeked. These were garments to take up space physically. Figuratively, too – you are unlikely to go unnoticed in these. Ditto for the pair of bulbous layered gowns, in fuzzy shimmering knit, which in their strange, excessive beauty proposed a suprisingly convincing proposition for modern eveningwear. Antique celluloid ruffles, like unspooled cassette tapes, adorned collars and cuffs, adding the sort of flourish a couturier would with feathers. “Nouveau chic,” Anderson said.

Such flourishes added to the myriad textures Anderson used throughout. “I was playing with a mixture of fabrics at the studio, some we have used before and some new and it came together in a sort of collage,” he explained. Among that collage, a series of dresses which – in Anderson’s typically playful manner – took their warped shape and typography from the idea of a crushed beer can.

“When I was younger, I was obsessed by the Guinness campaign with the horses running,” he said. “Not to be cliche and Irish, but there was something nice in the typography of Guinness – there was gold, there was black, a little touch of silver and a burgundy colour. The iconography of that tin has been the same forever.”

But, if these garments might prove a challenge too far for some of his customers, Anderson is well aware of the power of restraint, too. He did so with plays on the perennial tuxedo: one take saw the lapels expanded and the ankles cuffed with ties, in another iteration it was a dress, the back draped like a cape. Simplicity was struck too in draped silk gowns, which twisted elegantly around the body as a counterpoint to the more expansive volumes elsewhere, or the simple ribbed knit sweaters, which punctuated the collection. 

It marks the beginning of what has become a particularly busy schedule for Anderson, who will show his first collaboration with Moncler in Milan – he is the latest designer to take part in its ‘Genius’ project – before showing his Autumn/Winter 2020 Loewe collection later this month in Paris. Nonetheless, he remains upbeat – a mood which he hoped to carry into the clothing itself. “I wanted something optimistic,” he said.