“We are in a moment where we all need to think differently”: Speaking in his own words, Jonathan Anderson tells the story behind his Spring/Summer 2021 collection for JW Anderson
While some designers are forging forward with traditional runway shows – attendees socially distanced and mask-clad – Jonathan Anderson is steadfast in his decision to keep the ritual on pause. “For me it was too soon for us to go back to a show,” he tells AnOther in the days after the presentation of his Spring/Summer 2021 collection for JW Anderson. “It just seemed to soon for us and I didn’t want anyone to feel left out. Everyone who would be invited to the show normally receives a box at the same time.”
Delivered instead to attendees’ front doors as a colourful bound book – a sequel to his original ‘show in a box’ concept he pioneered during menswear month – it marked a desire for his audience to have a tangible and tactile experience of the new collection, with respect for the current moment (in Paris, where fashion week is currently taking place, the Covid-19 warning level looks set to turn “scarlet”, its highest rating). “I wanted a way to connect with people even though we couldn’t have a show and I wanted something tactile; something that felt personal and a way to present the collection that was interactive,” Anderson says.
Arriving in a package wrapped in paper printed with pages from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest – Anderson had re-read a number of Wilde’s plays during lockdown, finding them particularly prescient to 2020 – the book inside, bound with silver screws, comprised multiple types of coloured paper, envelopes of photographs, swatches of fabric, as well as the collection’s looks. A brass coin, embedded in the cover (“the instrument that makes the whole experience possible”) could be used to unscrew the binding and release the pages; once loose, Anderson hoped people would rearrange them to recreate a milieu not dissimilar to a runway show, albeit in miniature.
“I wanted something physical that people could interact with. You can look at it right away or next week or come back to it in a month,” says Anderson. “You can cut out the looks and use the coloured paper to make your own kind of backdrops. There is string and holes in all the sheets if you want to hang it up. For me it was important that you can kind of take the show and make it yours.”
The collection itself – an “outburst of lightness ... both metaphorical and real”, as the brand said – saw Anderson swerve between the “martial precision” of uniformed tailoring, and the languid, generous silhouettes which he propositioned in his resort collection earlier this year (“an accumulation of different aesthetic experiences that clash into an harmonious whole”, as the notes described). Decorate flourishes – embroidery, jacquards, jewel embellishment, sprays of feathers and the like – paid ode to the frivolity and poetry of fashion, “the expressive, performative language of dressing”.
Here, speaking in his own words, Jonathan Anderson tells the story behind the Spring/Summer 2021 collection, and why now marks a moment to “embrace and enjoy” change.
“We did the first ‘show in a box’ back in June for men’s and resort and we developed the concept when it felt like half the world was under strict lockdown. I wanted a way to connect with people even though we couldn’t have a show and I wanted something tactile; something that felt personal and a way to present the collection that was interactive. For this season and Chapter Two of the ‘show in a box’ I wanted to continue the theme. For me it was too soon to go back to a show. It just seemed too soon for us and I didn’t want anyone to feel left out. Everyone who would be invited to the show normally receives a box at the same time.
“We [also] produced some digital content that we are posting on Instagram and social media around the collection but I didn’t want to just do a show that we broadcasted. I wanted something physical that people could interact with. You can look at it right away or next week or come back to it in a month. You can cut out the looks and use the coloured paper to make your own kind of backdrops. There is string and holes in all the sheets if you want to hang it up. For me it was important that you can kind of take the show and make it yours.
“[During lockdown] I went back to some of Oscar Wilde’s plays that I read when I was in school and was re-reading them. He really was the king of one-liners. He had this amazing ability to sum up a moment in time or a thought in a one-liner. And then I came across this quote of his, ‘The secret of life is in art’, which really summed up 2020 for me. It all just made sense.”
“I think this collection is really about this moment in time and the JW Anderson brand DNA. I think you can see the frivolity in the embellished tops with the intricate beading and feathers that hang down. It felt luxurious, especially this juxtaposition with the cotton jersey. I think escapism can be important and fashion can offer that but I also think it’s equally important to be grounded in the moment and really be realistic about where we are and what we are doing. There is still a pandemic raging and I think we need to be careful in fashion to not be so escapist that it looks like arrogance or like we are ignoring the very real situation the world is in right now.
“There is a mix of these great tailored peplum blazers in floral jacquard paired with cargo shorts that sit next to silky suede tops and capes and these incredible trenches with big hardware. There is the chain on the chain loafers but also on a woven bucket bag that was inspired by a fisherman’s basket.
“I think [the lack of traditional fashion week] has given me massive amounts of freedom. We are in a moment where we all need to think differently. I am embracing and enjoying the change. Not rejecting it.”