“We’ve taken what we’ve been doing and upped it. Reduced it and refined it, until you start to see the woman,” said J. W. Anderson. As a designer on the brink of his thirtieth birthday who finds himself at the center of a vortex of attention from all directions, Anderson is under pressure to perform both for his own label, which has LVMH investment, and as the new creative director for Loewe, the Spanish leather-goods company, also part of LVMH. His eponymous spring collection certainly came up to scratch, looking more akin to a sophisticated Paris presentation than the work of a promising London newcomer hatched in a basement in Dalston—which is exactly where Anderson was until last year.
The clothes? It’s true that Anderson has been talking about “suspended architecture” for some time—a bid to break away from reproducing the riffs on the standard preppy/schoolgirlish pieces that he began with. He’s also been following through with his passionate interest in mid-century-modern British art and artists in lots of ways, accumulating ceramics, fabrics, paintings, glass, and furniture. Before now, it’s sometimes been hard to grasp what Anderson’s been talking about while he’s been processing these thoughts, but now he’s smoothed off the rough experimental edges, and the work-in-progress has emerged. What we looked at today was something surprisingly grown-up, and definitely congruent with standard luxury-house codes—carefully considered coordinates for women with money, who are probably in their 30s and up.
Anderson certainly knows how to style a polished head-to-toe look. The heads were in oversize floppy leather hats, and the feet in lace-up shoes with chunky, almost pebble-form heels. In between, he showed short A-line linen skirts and coats cinched with leather cummerbunds, jackets with one lapel, various curviform cutouts, and looped rope details—“kind of like Picasso,” he remarked. There were glancing marine or seaside allusions—brass buttons on jacket plackets, what appeared to be back-to-front sailor trousers, with the traditional flap-fastening over the derrière, and little terry-toweling suits with cropped jackets and wraparound skirts.
It sounds more complicated than it came over. Still, the essential talent J. W. Anderson has is the ability to deal out really wearable items—pieces sharp-eyed women of style always single out and fall on like a pack of wolves. At that level, fashion success is all instinct—the instant, wordless communication between designer and customer. By the time Anderson’s audience had left the building, the scent was already up on next season’s prey. His variations on cream floppy silk blouses (one with mother-of-pearl buttons in mismatched sizes, the others with leather collars) and his sweaters with trompe l’oeil camisoles attached to the front . . . well, we’re going to be seeing a lot of them about next season.