Subverted Realism. JW Anderson SS23

Jonathan Anderson is high on surreal, escapist and subverted fashion he has been delivering lately, and his spring-summer 2023 JW Anderson collection is one of his best yet (I really can’t wait to see what’s to come at Loewe in a couple of days). But then, the direction Anderson is taking isn’t that far from reality. In the middle of Soho, on the most packed London Saturday night of all, the show’s guests were plunged into the Vegas video gambling arcade (the location was just next door to his JW Anderson flagship store on Wardour Street). His models made a short walk past marshals, crash barriers and hustling crowds into a place where people go for the thrill of gaming the random fates of fortune. A big, metallic bubble of a dress symbolically took in the whole of the scene in its distorted silver surface: flashing screens, views of the audience perched on stools. Everyone laughed delightedly and lifted their phones. “I like this idea of a transient moment in time. I’ve been exploring this for several collections,” Anderson extemporized afterward. “Are we falling into our screens, becoming our phones? I think it’s really like an alternate universe, and there are layers and layers and layers to it. I think it’s probably about realism. I don’t think it’s about futurism. It’s more about a reflection of ourselves somehow.”

In his frank observation of the state of human consciousness in a disorderly world of events, it’s as if Anderson has turned the bizarreness of chance itself into his medium, and he’s playing with it. Parts of the collection, the prints of goldfish in plastic bags, a map of the planet, pictures of palm-fringed beaches and sunsets, were lifted “from stock digital pictures you find on the internet and can buy for a dollar.” Then came a halterneck top made out of old computer keys – a person half-merged with their machine. In this topsy-turvy world, chunky sweaters might also be worn upside down – why not? But Anderson is simultaneously in the mood for straight-up clarity. He also showed long charmeuse lingerie lace-trimmed slips and draped T-shirt dresses with plenty of hip and torso exposure. Exactly like life these days: one thing can come along after another without warning. This past week, as the whole world knows, Britain has had to deal with the death of its monarch. So did Anderson. On an emergency British Fashion Council conference call with fellow designers, he was the one who took a decisive lead in rallying the community’s resolve to carry on with London Fashion Week for the sake of small brands who couldn’t afford to cancel. And then, to mark the moment, he sent out a black T-shirt printed with a graphic commemoration of Her Majesty The Queen as his finale. All was not quite as it seemed, though: he said it was a replica of the posters which have gone up on bus stops all over London. Marking the significance of a passing moment of history with an image of an existing image. How very JW Anderson is that?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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