Jonathan Anderson left London and showed in Milan this season… to some extent. In the latest in his series of ingenious pandemic alternatives to putting models on a runway, he made a surprise intervention in public. “We have dozens of trucks with billboards of the collection images circulating Milan all day. Juergen Teller is out photographing them with people at gas stations and other stops. Content becomes content. Image becomes pictures of pictures. Fashion becomes part of the landscape”, the designer explained. As a device for creating a widely seen, soon to be endlessly Instagram-replicated public spectacle, it’s just the latest of JW Anderson’s super-smart manipulations of media – right in the middle of the Italian city where the institution of the fashion billboard has been part of the competitive pride of fashion week for years. And this, simply with one photographer and one model, his friend Hari Nef impersonating four pop-cultural ‘characters’ in a Cindy Sherman-esque, and a fleet of truckers. “We don’t have thematics any more. We’re doing bite-sized, light-hearted things like this,” Anderson said. “We have a young demographic, and we’re a small contemporary brand. With all the multiple issues we’re facing – going from one crisis to another crisis – there has to be learning from that. New types and ways of doing things.” Since the pandemic hit Anderson has been acing communication by playing with printed matter in delightful ways. He’s also re-focused his own-brand strategy on “two main seasons, and two experimental ones. So this is one of those experiments.”
Rolled out (literally) around Milan were pictures designed simultaneously to provoke lots of fun and push Gen-Z memory-buttons. “We’re playing with this media paradox in pop culture where there’s this constant going to the past, and bringing it forward. So things are just as valid as they were, but in a different context.” One set is around the movie posters for Carrie – original graphics from Sissy Spacek’s classic 1976 horror role as the awkward teenager who turns out to have gory telekinetic powers of revenge at the school prom. No random choice, that: “I feel like that movie is such an influence on teen TV series being made now,” Anderson acutely observed. Apart from the obvious T-shirt, sweatpant, and pajama-set graphics, there’s a one-shouldered silver silk satin prom dress. Quite ingeniously, it’s photo-printed all around the hem with “hyper realistic” balloons from Carrie’s own prom.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.