Beauty, Silhouette & Pose. JW Anderson AW21

For some designers, the pandemic brought a sense of freedom, and also let them really rethink how to do things. Jonathan Anderson is an example. “I do not want to be bound by the idea that we have to show 60 looks, that we have to do this thing, that it has to be presented this way. I want to be able to have the freedom. I’m enjoying the freedom at the moment that we’re not part of the vehicle. And I didn’t want to put pressure upon pressure on my team – the last six months have been a nightmare. I said, ‘Let’s just focus on getting 19 fantastic propositions.’ I don’t want urgency. I want to just put it out when it’s ready.” Continuing with a format established several seasons ago, JW Anderson presented its women’s autumn-winter 2021 collection in the form of nineteen double-sided posters shot by Juergen Teller in addition to a video message from Jonathan Anderson. This season’s presentation is a curation and juxtaposition of Jonathan’s passions: art and fashion. Alongside the nineteen looks of the collection are portraits of Dame Magdalene Odundo DBE and Shawanda Corbett and their works. Anderson uses his fashion platforms as creative outlets for people he finds inspiring and wants to introduce to his audience. The designer got to know the internationally lauded Odundo when she loaned him pieces in 2017 for the “Disobedient Bodies” exhibition that he curated at the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery, a show that sparked comparisons between art forms and fashion forms (“I really look up to her. She’s one of the most important ceramicists of the 20th century”). He discovered the young American Corbett at the Corvi-Mora Gallery in London last summer. Corbett, who was born with one arm and without legs, creates vessels that she has described as “stand-ins for people,” as well as dance performances. “I went into that room, and there was nearly a landscape of people talking to each other,” he remembers. “It was incredible to feel the power and influence objects can have on you.” In both Corbett’s work and Odundo’s practice, he feels a physical connection. “This is about an exploration of two artists’ work, my own work, and the idea of the body. And that is what clothing is about.” For Jonathan the collection was an attempt to “boil everything down to beauty, silhouette and pose.” It is an exploration of volume, a recurring theme in JW Anderson womenswear collections, with a focus on totemic structures. Knitwear expands into extreme, cocooning shapes. The everyday becomes surreal in prints on trousers and tops. The body, grounded on sturdy boots with chain embellishment, is celebrated as a vessel. Like the art and the images, the fashion is “curated” (one of Anderson’s favourite words, both at his London-based brand and Loewe). The combination of art and fashion this season is embodied in hand-knit and woven blankets (four hand-knit blanket styles  featuring works from Odundo and Corbett can be pre-ordered on the brand’s website) and the entire presenation is “one of the most personal projects I have ever done,” as Jonathan summed up.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Real and Fun. JW Anderson AW21

Jonathan Anderson working with Juergen Teller? That’s a match I’m living for. JW Anderson‘s autumn-winter 2021 collection for men (and pre-fall 2021 for women) has been photographed by Teller in London, in his distinct, easy, spontaneous manner. The process basically reflected what Anderson wanted to achieve this season with the garments. “I felt it was better to start the year with something lighter and less calculated,” he declared on a Zoom call with Vogue. “At the beginning of 2021 I wanted something that’s reality. A reality check.” Reality? Well, now that reality’s gone mad, the hilarious antics going on in Anderson’s new set of look-book-posters are a reasonable enough response to the zeitgeist. There’s Sophie Okonedo, who played Charlotte Wells, the mental hospital patient with multiple personality disorder in Ratched, acting up with a gourd, a pumpkin, and an armful of berries, and a trio of male models doing things with cabbage, cauliflower, and an assortment of house plants. To add to the silliness, the handwritten captions are all nonsensically mixed up. “It’s a lot to do with being straightforward, and that’s why I wanted to use Juergen,” Anderson opined. “He’s so good at showing a sharp reality without any fuss.” As usual with JW Anderson, eclectic matchings are the key. Follow the vegetables: ever so cute as crocheted radishes on a sweater, or embroidered on a hoodie; suggestive as great big prints of gourds and a random peach – yet also inspired by Anderson’s interest in 17th century Dutch still lifes, and the work of the British painter William Nicholson. An existential, speculative rabbit-hole, this one: “Why do we glorify something as simple as a lemon or a radish? Is it meditative?” he asks, rhetorically. “So we turned that idea into patterns and iconography. I like this idea of humor in clothing. Squashes on jeans. A peach in the middle of a sweater. Something that makes you grin. Because fashion is meant to make you think, or dream.” Then, the extreme trousering. Follow those upended isosceles triangular trouser legs, and you’re off down the warren leading to Dada and Surrealist costume, the Cabaret Voltaire and Bauhaus theater, if you please. Or perhaps to bump into the checkerboard patterns that the extraordinary gender non-conforming anti-fascist Surrealist Claude Cahoun photographed herself wearing. Those shape experiments are a bold “no, no” to stay-at-home sweats. “I spent so much time last year admiring people ‘doing’,” Anderson says. It’s reinvigorated his belief in craft, in making things himself, in the way he did when he started his brand at the age of 24. “Because I think the world is starting to change. I think this isn’t a time for shock – I think we want reality, honesty, to be stimulated in a way that isn’t sensationalized.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.