When it was announced a few months ago that Jonathan Anderson would be designing a capsule collection for Versus, the natural reaction was befuddlement. It was hard to imagine two brands with more opposed aesthetics: Whereas Donatella Versace's Versus signature was exuberantly sexy, where's-the-party-at clothes, J.W. Anderson traffics in a look that's sculptural, irony-laced, and cool, as in cold. Anderson is also, and not incidentally, a big believer in androgynous clothes. Suffice it to say, that's never been Donatella's shtick.
And thus it was a genuine surprise, at tonight's extravaganza launching the collab, which featured performances by Maxwell, Grimes, and the rapper Angel Haze, to see how much these brands had to say to each other. Speaking backstage before the event, Versace and Anderson talked of their work together as an ongoing dialogue; Anderson, for his part, pointed out that Versace pushed him to create sexier, more womanly shapes, while Versace noted that Anderson was very "loyal" to the Versus codes. That made the dialogue sound rather one-sided. But on the runway, Anderson's point of view somewhat carried the day. People familiar with his oeuvre had no trouble spotting Anderson in the very cool trousers with slashed, peekaboo waistbands, or in the band fastening of an asymmetrical blazer, or in the bright, apron-style knits shown with or without accenting sprays of black lace. The fact that all the aforementioned pieces were shown for both men and women, without much adaptation, was also irreducibly Andersonian.
The vibe, though, felt very Versus. Anderson's connection to the brand's nineties-ness is genuine, and his reinterpretation felt very grounded in the attitude of that era. He also seemed to have tapped in to his inner club kid: If Anderson's own Fall ’13 collection had a medicated air, these clothes conjured a different kind of pilled-up aura. Rave night at the sanatorium, what an idea.