"I'm in a different place. It's a new year." So said Jonathan Anderson at his men's show this morning, the 9 a.m. wake-up call that sounds the trumpet for extremity at London's menswear week. Anderson's fortunes have improved significantly since last year and his last show. In September LVMH invested in his line and named him creative director of its moribund Spanish label Loewe. It showed. The new J.W. Anderson show was suited, booted, and polished in an entirely different way from before—even if those suits would be barely recognizable to many of London's other menswear players, and those boots well, they were moiré vinyl hobby heels. Anderson has never made apologies for pushing the boundaries well past the point of comfort, and he isn't about to start now. "I love the idea that when you look at portraits in old houses, they're always positioned really high," he said. "That was the idea with the shoe—that idea of elevation. When you look at the face, you have to look up at it."
In effect, he put his boys on lace-up plinths and invited stares. But while his previous efforts at turning men into canvases for artistic experimentation—most notably for Spring—have had a coldly dehumanizing effect, this season's had a warmth that was cozy, even mumsy. "Like eating macaroons," Anderson said. "When you go through a phase of stripping and reducing, you kind of want more cake."
More was the heart of the sugary message. There was more here than in the stringent past. Nearly every look had a bag, a bangle (even if some of them were tape rolls), a brooch, a pair of specs. That lent a finish to even the grannyish bits, with the couch-floral jacquards, frilled leather blouses, and sweaters with matching wraps.
Success hasn't softened J.W. Anderson. This collection was a renewed insistence on the cardinal J.W. values. But it has sweetened him, to very good effect. There were still architectural explorations—the wrapped, cropped trousers key among them—but even they seemed, in the context of puff-sleeve sweaters and tabard tunics, appealing and approachable. And think how good they might look on a woman—an odd thought for menswear, but one that has nevertheless been murmured more than once over the course of the London shows. With J-Dubs, it's a foregone conclusion: The ideas here will percolate through his women's pre-collection. So just wait. She'll be the girl with the most cake.