In our frantic lives made of quick Instagram pics begging us to follow the next trend there is not much time to study and ponder about contemporary fashion from a historical point of view.
Yet quite often stepping into the past can provide us with an in-depth analysis of the present and a glimpse of the future as well. Let's try for example going back to the 16th century, a time when the European courts produced a style of dressing that reflected their national character, to maybe dissect J.W. Anderson's S/S 17 collection, showcased yesterday during London Fashion Week.,
During the Renaissance the human body was idealised with costumes made with luxurious materials and embroidered with jewels or lace. As the discovery of America in 1492 established new exchanges with the West Indies, allowing the import of new materials, styles evolved in many courts.
Italian styles were widely imitated all over Europe, but new financial developments favoured the English, French and Spanish trading classes.
Clothing changed thanks to new influences in art and architecture: when Gothic vertical lines were indeed substituted by cupolas or more classical details, women's robes became wider at the waistline.
As sumptuary laws prescribed that commoners should wear clothes of only one colour, men and women started slashing doublets, sleeves and hoses to create new contrasts with the colours of the garments they wore underneath.
The Spanish style dominated the mid-16th century: the court in Spain was influenced by geometrical forms that accentuated the lines of hips and shoulders. Pointed bodices that imposed a geometrical form to the bust became popular, together with ballooning sleeves, and ruffs, elements that transformed the wearer into a formidable, unapproachable and indomitable figure.
Menswear included doublets with standing collars and padded rolls at the top of the sleeves, matched with puffed padded hose or short breeches, but padding also characterized women's wear as proved by some of the paintings from those times.
In England, Elizabethan culture made popular magnificent and elaborate designs created to impress and reflect the social status of the wearer.
The late Alexander McQueen quite often borrowed from history the most striking shapes and silhouettes for his garments, coming up with extraordinary pieces; J.W. Anderson does the same in a less striking way.
His main obsession is not reinventing a historical detail in a modern way, but applying it to his garments as it is to subvert gender roles and historical rules.
For example, for his S/S 17 collection Anderson stole and collaged together several historical details from 16th century paintings.
He played with Tudor doublets, recreating slashed sleeves, rolling up hems and cuffs, reproducing waists borrowed from Renaissance paintings, patchworking ruched skirts with ill-fitting Tudor bodices, creating Frankenstein's monsters (sounds like an apt reference since there was even an anatomy print showing a hand with muscles revealed on one garment…) by stitching together bits and pieces such as a top in the style of Henry VIII with a bubble-shaped skirt in a coarse fabric, and quilting denim trousers at the knees.
Thinking that maybe he hadn't remixed enough historical elements, Anderson added earrings inspired by an ancient Egyptian swallow.
Yet the most notable piece didn't really feature any of these crazy historical mixes, but was a simple dress made with linen placemats (or were those pillow cases?) decorated with gigliuccio embroidery of the sort your great-grandmother would have liked.
It was as if Anderson had casually distributed them in an angular way on the model's body to create an asymmetric free-falling and flowing fluidly top and skirt.
Yet all his borrowing from other times feels a bit weird: we claim we live in the future, but then take refuge in the past and copy and paste paintings, historical costumes and maybe even film or theatre costumes.
Though critics sounded enthusiastic about Anderson's collection and teh way he uses precise historical elements, there are quite a few things to consider: a specific aesthetic purpose - the perfection of physical beauty - was pursued in the 16th century, while Anderson's garments do not seem to really improve the body in any special way.
But, having mastered the "copy and paste" technique (started in the '90s by the Miuccia Prada School of Thought) at a relatively young age, means that Anderson has by now achived an untouchable avant-garde status among younger generations of fashionistas.
Yet maybe, rather than being an ode to the virtues of historical cut and paste, this collection was a way for Anderson to show he works as a "curator" - choosing, picking and sampling items and ideas and then displaying them all together.
Perhaps Anderson was also hinting via his distorted mixed historical styles at the theme of an exhibition - "Disobedient Bodies" - that he will be "curating" in March 2017 at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.
The event will feature the inspirations behind his Autumn/Winter 2013 men's collection such as photographs by Jamie Hawkesworth, plus selected pieces by Jean Arp, Louise Bourgeois, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Sarah Lucas, Henry Moore, Magali Reus and Dorothea Tanning alongside designs by Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, Helmut Lang and Issey Miyake.
Somehow you can bet that, if Anderson ever decides to drop out of fashion, he will end up working in the art field. In fact, who knows, the loss of the fashion industry may be the gain of the art world...