Men’s – What’s Modern? JW Anderson SS23

Jonathan Anderson is nailing it again, being in his surreal element. Back before Anderson started producing his in-your-face de-gendered mood-driven menswear in 2008 – the “shared wardrobe” concept that ironically led to him being practically frogmarched by his fans into expanding into in-your-face de-gendered mood-driven womenswear a few years later – he had plans to be an actor. That plan changed during an audition for Juillard in New York, where he performed a piece from the in-your-face ’90s play The Pitchfork Disney by Philip Ridley. Nearly a decade later The Pitchfork Disney, which he recently reread, was revived by Anderson as a central element in this first live Milan bow. Anderson said afterwards he’d been moved by “the shock of theater” that the play represented (some of the audience at its premiere in 1991 fainted) to shape a collection that tested our perceptions of clothing and modernity. The BMX handlebars, shattered skate decks and CDs were there to remind us of the intrinsic ephemerality of modernity, and its inevitable descent into anachronism. Anderson tried to add “eating canned goods” to this category of faded fads while speaking to the Italian press, but these pieces seemed more like witty acts of wearable assemblage. There was certainly a cheekiness to the project. The embedded bar codes made consumption provocatively both the ends and the means of engagement. “Fashion is a very modern device,” he said. “But it is not a modern act.” To underline the illusion of modernity he cast Rembrandt as the protagonist in his fashion play via intarsia reproductions on knitwear and prints on sneakers featuring the artist’s leery etching, Self-portrait in a Cap, Wide-eyed and Open-mouthed, from 1630. The nearly 400 year-old selfie stressed that while technology upgrades, the way in which we use it stays pretty constant. All these devices – along with industrial gloves, a stock photo of an apple-eating kid, and hardware-store door hinges – were placed within or adjacent to borderline generic contemporary canons of clothing. This created a have your cake and eat it result: you could wear JW Anderson-issued versions of 2023 uniform, and through those in-your-face interventions included within them simultaneously signal that you understood the narrative was entirely contingent – just a wearable moment in time.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

End Of An Era. Etro Men’s SS23 + Resort 2023

It’s end of an era at Etro: with a new creative director appointed, the Italian brand is departing from its family roots. Marco De Vincenzo is taking the lead, and will show his first collection in September. Veronica Etro and Kean Etro waved a good-bye with their last collections: women’s resort and men’s spring-summer 2023. These two line-ups were quintessentially Etro, at its best. For menswear, Kean Etro delights in layering multiple references with the ease that comes not only from experience but from true cultural curiosity. His love of literature and poetry are just some of his many interests, and this season, instead of invitations, he had actors phone each of the show’s hundreds of guests to recite a dedicated poem to each one. It was a gesture of exquisite sensitivity. “Poetry and utopia go hand in hand,” he said backstage before the show. “In its etymology, poetry simply means making, composing. I wanted to give value to the idea of creating, which shouldn’t be separated from utopia.” Quoting Oscar Wilde, he added “there’s no progress in society without utopia.” Following circadian rhythms, looks were presented in circular chromatic cadence, from morning whites through sun-at-the-zenith brights to velvety darks dotted with starry figments. Archetypal in shape – kimonos, kaftans, djellabas, wrap jackets closed by obis 0 it was elevated by what the designer called “a florilegium,” that is a plethora of sparse floral images delicately overprinted with the number 432 Hertz. “It’s the number indicating the frequency of the universe’s good vibration,” said Kean. “It’s the frequency of beauty. It’s like when you charge crystals or bio-dynamic particles with energy – I’ve used it to somehow energize the garments.” The energy-charging ritual may have worked: there was a lively feeling to the collection that propelled it forward, despite the stifling heatwave which made the air feel unnaturally still. Billowy see-through chiffon kaftans and elongated shirts and kimonos in liquid satin were worn open to reveal nude skin, as well as boxing shorts exposing bare legs. The body was perceived through mesh textures, broderie Anglaise inserts, and impalpable silks and linens. The breezy, cultivated Bohemian feel which is the Etro siblings’ signature looked vital and delicate in equal measure.

Meanwhile, for resort 2023, Veronica focused on the classic summer-version of the brand. The label’s staples – the glamorous caftan, the dressing gown duster, the flowy dress – were given a fresh interpretation. The paisley motif was blown up into a vibrant abstract rendition, printed on a long chiffon dress with butterfly sleeves, or onto a masculine bermuda suit, or again on a tight body-con number with an asymmetrical ruffled hem. Punctuating the collection with an artisanal feel, a series of crocheted pieces including an elongated mesh cardi, a handknit knotted-fringed miniskirt, and a show stopping robe/poncho exuded the haute hippy vibe that is trademark Etro. Its free spirited attitude will surely transition into Etro’s new direction.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Men’s – Choice. Prada SS23

Whenever Prada delivers a collection focused solely on all-time classics, it’s clear that some sort of recession is coming. If shopping for new clothes, no fashion-statement impulses – only rational choices. Investment pieces that will become a wardrobe staple: that’s exactly what Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons‘ spring-summer 2023 menswear collection is about. First, we’ve got reasonable suiting. It came black, skinny in the pant and cropped at the top of cowboy boots. Jackets were single or 1.5-breasted, cut slim and low. Then up popped eternal leather: frisson-making black double-zip short-shorts worn against sleeveless tops and coats. Shortly afterwards the shorts came accented with a series of striped rib knits. Next up were some leather-edged back-buttoned shirts in shopping bag checks, with craftily naïf ric-rac trims that echoed Prada’s pyramid cipher. There was a brief section of attractive washed denim. The shorts underpinned the looks. And of course, the coats – some in beige, some in naive gingham (a Miuccia classic, think autumn-winter 2013). The models were sometimes double-coated, sometimes single. According to the brand’s release, “choice” is the keyword behind the line-up. Said Mrs. Prada in her pre-quote: “So much that is the base is really a conceptual choice – a coat, jeans, a suit. They appear simple but are the result of a process, of choice – there are hundreds of coats, why is this the right one? It is a combination of a long process of design and decision, and then of instinct. It is a matter of style.” Adjacent on the page Simons was reported as saying: “The garments are classic, but their mix contradicts, making them exciting and new. There is leather against the body, then cotton on top – there’s a kind of anti-logic to the combination of the clothes, an oddness.” Kinky, corporate, normcore and craft – the ingredients in this menswear minestrone of a Prada collection looked pretty weird on the menu, but tasted fresh when seen on the flesh.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Men’s – Surf-Board. DsQuared2 SS23

Then ride it with my surfboard, surfboard, surfboard

Graining on that wood, graining-graining on that wood.

For spring-summer 2023, DsQuared2 went surf-boy-mode. Dean and Dan Caten’s layering extravaganza inspired by surf culture and 1970s Jamaica is just what a stinking-hot summer wardrobe needs and wants. The Catens worked with the Bob Marley Foundation, which granted them permission to reproduce a portrait of the reggae genius on T-shirts, beach totes, and bags. “We liked the vibe of that time, and the freedom and rebellion he represented,” they said backstage. “Peace and love, and the joy of music.” From the Jamaican flag they extracted bursts of color punctuating the sporty pieces they excel at, while cool formal options were styled imaginatively in well orchestrated chaos, as in the collection’s hero ensemble: a sloped-shoulder evening tux or checked blazer worn with a low-slung tie-dye sarong, or over multicolor printed beach pants. Each passing season, the Catens’s layering reaches new heights – with Vanessa Reid’s masterful styling help. It’s a fun formula that they’re able to articulate with gusto, keeping it rather fresh and entertaining. Another collaboration, this one with Honda, energized biker jackets and various patched leather pieces with a ’70s flavor. They added a tougher spin to the mellow, quirky surfer look of slouchy striped knits, humongous bermudas in printed nylon, and patchworked flares with appliqué marijuana leaves.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Characters. JW Anderson AW22

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.