J.W. Anderson is very used to riling up the fashion establishment, but his Fall menswear show, with its frilled dresses, kangaroo-pocket tube tops, and knee-high boots, landed him in the crosshairs of the Daily Mail and CNBC. That's the kind of PR money can't buy, but to suggest that Anderson is courting buzz through scandal isn't quite accurate. Infamy may be a by-product, even perhaps a desired one (only the Shadow knows—or the shrink), but the designer himself insists on loftier aims. He wants to "find a new line," he said in his showroom. His men's collection was about "suspended architecture" and "stripping back to the flesh."
And so was his women's. Anderson has long cross-pollinated his menswear and womenswear. This was no exception. Pieces that had made their debut on the men's runway were reborn here, resized for women but functionally unchanged. The frilled wool shorts were actually coming back the third time around; their original outing was from a prior womenswear collection. The wool jumpers, bonded to sponge for volume, had been in the men's show. They'd been inspired, Anderson said, by the old blazers he'd worn at school, turned backward and fused into a single slipover piece.
That's Anderson's method: fun-house-mirror reflections and refractions bounced back and forth between menswear and womenswear, the past and the future. Shown on the runway, high-concept theatrics can make your head spin, and the designer's explanations can confuse more than they clarify. But step back from all that—turn off the CNBC—and there are hits that stand tall all on their own. The pullovers and gathered-neck tops (originally an experiment with a stapler!) are a good example. So are the high-slit minidresses, also veterans of the menswear collection, though arguably a more natural fit here. It's all a world away from the Tesco-bright collections he was showing just a year ago, but sometimes, he shrugged, "you reject it through the process of doing it." If his goal is, as he said, trying to keep things new, he's hit it.