Rewind your fashion clocks to 4 or 5 years ago (yes, it may be a civilization ago in fashion terms, but do it…). You're interviewing a designer creating both men and womenswear who's telling you interesting stories about how menswear is going through a Renaissance, how clients are returning with a new interest in quality and lasting pieces and how it feels almost more liberating creating for men rather than women.
Fast-forward to our days and you'll discover that, while there is still an interest in menswear, the "genderless" label and the "see now, buy now" trend are jointly contributing to change the face of both men and womenswear shows as we know them. More and more labels are indeed opting for combined men and women's shows, something that makes you wonder what will happen to dedicated fairs such as Pitti Uomo (will it be combined with Pitti W and become "Pitti Genderless"?).
Then again when you think about some of the designs seen on the runways of London Collections Men in the last few days, you realise that, after all, losing some shows may be a blessing rather than a curse.
Part of the media seems to spot endless talents among London-based designers, though the truth is that the city is becoming less and less interesting from many points of view. Rather than seeing energy, extravagance and rebellion, you often see confusion and chaos, incoherence and lack of knowledge when it comes to fabrics. Yet these are not the scariest things, what frightens you the most is that in London confusion is taken for talent; incoherent collections for freedom; lack of knowledge in fabrics and fit as experimentation and a penchant for a desirable degree of naiveté.
Leading the pack of the glamorously glorified there is J.W. Anderson. Hailed as a genius by the fashion media, constantly on the lookout for somebody new, hip and young to idolise before getting bored and eventually destroying or abandoning them in favour of the next big thing, Anderson is famous for merging the masculine and feminine dichotomies in what are considered thought-provoking silhouettes. Yet, when you sit down, look and think, you realise that Anderson is the perfect pupil out of "The Miuccia Prada School for Fashion Remixing".
For his Spring/Summer 2017 menswear collection Anderson moved from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's tale The Little Prince, a book that, as you may remember, became part of the public domain last year in Europe (where copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the author; Saint-Exupéry died in 1944). Yet, it wasn't for copyright reasons that Anderson moved from this intergalactic novella, his main point was indeed remixing Space Age, David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, childish moods highlighted also by Bowie's voice introducing the Philadelphia Orchestra's 1978 recording of Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" opening the show, the '70s, and, well, bad taste, all rolled in the same collection.
Hence the satin jumpsuits and trench coats ideal for roaming around the desert or a lost planet; the horrendously childish culottes matched with tunic-like maxi-shirts in a jigsaw puzzle print or completed by clownish oversized bibs (another clownish detail were the extremely long sleeves, apparently a take on a child wearing a grown up's jumper), or the golden jackal gods dancing as if in a kitsch disco dance opera about Egyptology.
Accessories included goggle-like eyewear, cartoonish jewellery pieces, laced-top boots, shiny patent leather bags, and beaded modular Tangle-like crowns by artist, inventor and, well, Tangle master, Richard X. Zawitz.
According to the fashion media Anderson is a daring designer (though he doesn’t seem interested in wearing his own designs and has adopted a uniform of dark navy jumper and denim trousers…), yet his modus operandi is definitely not that ground-breaking: indeed, rather than copying from one source, Anderson borrows and mixes, that's why you may get the jigsaw puzzle print shirt donned by Bowie in The Man who Feel to Earth with a knit characterized by a badly drawn Pop Arty face, the whole combined with random silhouettes you may have spotted a while back in a book about Pierre Cardin.
You can try and defend Anderson, saying he is trying to draw a boa constrictor digesting an elephant in "Little Prince" style (View this photo), but we can only see a hat cos we don't have any fantasy, and only really visionary minds can understand him.
But, like most designers nowadays, rather than creating, Anderson proceeds by accumulation, assembling details of what he may see on the Internet and collaging them together, that's why, while staring at his looks, you have that déjà-vu feeling that pervades you, the impression you are looking at samples from endless Instagram digital moodboards combined together and transported into the real world.In a way, looking at a J.W. Anderson collection is a bit like seeing aerial footage shot by a drone: you capture the vastness of something without giving a shit about anything in particular.
There is also another problem with Anderson: he seems to be terribly detached from reality. Yes, fashion is a fantasy, but it's a fantasy that should inspire real people, rather than remaining confined to a mere fantastically whimsical wardrobe. For the time being, Anderson's designs are the stuff that excites street style peacocks, and that do not look out of place if and when they are coldly displayed in a clinically boring environment such as the British Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Biennale.
It will be interesting to see what happens to menswear shows in a few seasons' time (well, if seasons keep on existing…), but it will be even more intriguing to see what kind of designer will emerge from the fashion changes that produced in the last few decades DJs and remixers, or what will happen when consumers realise that, for ages, they have been caught in an endless extended remix playing on an endless loop, offering them bad taste and badly fitting clothes reviewed by supposedly independent magazines as the work of irreverent geniuses.
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