Men’s – Transgressive. JW Anderson AW23

JW Anderson‘s menswear events have become the most exciting moments of Milan Fashion Week. And there’s a lot to unpack in the autumn-winter 2023 collection. Jonathan Anderson reflected on all his past work by returning to one of his most transgressive statements. Ten years ago, his ruffled shorts, skirts, and minidresses – all modeled by men – drove the London fashion scene crazy. Recalling the moment pre-show, Anderson said: “I found it very strange… that collection was about a shared wardrobe.” Even if, he added, he knew he was being something of a “brat” at the time, the force of the reaction revealed the depth of the subversion. He returned to it tonight to interrogate the notion that recent history’s radical rephrasing – even if still polarizing – discourse around gender would soften its impact. He said: “this feels like an old fashioned thing for myself to say now, but it is still something as a society we have yet to work out. How do we package people? Do we need to package people or not?” The Milan show opened with two boys in underwear holding bolts of cloth: the undressed waiting to be dressed, the unpackaged waiting to be packaged. Then came two models clutching pillows inserted into their garments, whose limbs were painted with tomato images. And then came the ruffled short. The difference between this and the original was that version 2.0 came in leather, but otherwise it was effectively a fresh edition of the garment this designer could barely sell the first time round, and which he still works to buy back at auction when they re-enter the market. The following looks teased your notions of facade and identity. The fully grown non-binary cast wore anthropomorphic frog-faced slides and boots by Wellipets, a recently relaunched but until now kids-only brand that was once worn by the British royal family’s heir and the spare back in the 1990s. As any basic biologist knows, certain healthy frogs can change gender according to circumstance. Torsos, some butch and some slender, were printed on terry vests worn over slouchy pants. There were some infantile animal print briefs and a series of uniform-aping duffle coats, fastened with lock and key instead of horn and eye, in leather and faux fur. The ruffle returned on occasion. Certain garments came inserted at the top of the spine with the decorative leather and plastic SIM cards that also acted as show invitations. One model had his placed over his heart. “Everyone’s attached to one,” said Anderson of this detail. “The idea is that you are taking it and turning it into something completely useless. Also all technology becomes useless in the end.” In the whole this was a radical wardrobe ready to come out and be inhabited, now that the times have caught up with the spirit of its inception.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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