Now that Christopher Kane has signed his deal with PPR and entered the
realm of the establishment, it seems the right time to officially anoint
J.W. Anderson London's most interesting emerging designer. Anderson
and Kane are very different creatures—there's almost no overlap in
their points of view—but one quality they share is a willingness
to be mysterious. Their best collections aren't entirely
comprehensible—not at first, and maybe not ever. They transcend
The remarkable collection Anderson debuted tonight was a case in point. After the show, speaking to the designer backstage, it was fascinating to test your impressions of his strange, sculpturally beautiful clothes against his own report of how he conceived them. It was obvious that the lank, long-sleeve shifts that gaped open in the back owed a debt to hospital gowns, which made you wonder if the arm-binding colored bands on the turtlenecks and the straps crossed over the papery pants had been informed by straitjackets. That thought led you to see the collection's slit-up skirts and sleeves and dangling belts, capes, and hems building a theme of things coming apart or unraveling. Yes, you scribbled in your notes, there seemed to be a medicated sense of suspension to some of these clothes, and yes, wasn't the sudden appearance and disappearance of a crazy comic-strip print something like a fit of derangement? The collection had an atmosphere of lunacy. So, Anderson was asked, was that the meaning here? Was he communicating some kind of non compos mentis psychological state?
Anderson answered that question by talking about aesthetics. His agenda, he said, was to disturb the conventional lines of his clothes, and to find ways of elongating silhouettes and creating unpredictable angles. He spoke not of reality suspension but of architectural suspension. And then he gave a ninja-quick overview of his fussed-over technical fabrics, the most notably peculiar of which was the trash bag–textured varnished nylon he used in the trousers he showed with his furs. Anderson's take on his collection was entirely accurate, of course. But it was also inadequate to explain why a look like, say, his vivid red tie-necked top and slit-open skirt asserted such a spellbinding power. This collection was interpretable in any number of ways. But the clear takeaway was that it was captivating, original, modern, and great.