"Three months of hell." Jonathan Anderson wasn't mincing words about the
torture he'd inflicted on himself in the name of Spring 2013. But that's
what happens when you set yourself challenges that sound peculiar to the
point of insurmountability. Like, how do you screen-print cotton sponge so
it has the uniform matteness of a Dulux-ed wall or a sheet of Pantone?
Whaaaaat? Anderson managed to do it, but the result looked and felt like
neoprene, which kind of made you wonder why he didn't just use neoprene in
the first place. That question would, however, be a fundamental
misapprehension of Anderson's extraordinary, experimental commitment to his
craft. Here, printed satin was heat-sealed to give it a lumpy texture,
cotton shirting was given "a chemical puff." Color was lasered on the back
of a nylon base and shot with silk to provide the metallic fabrics for the
show's last looks. Everything was done by hand, but the result had a
curiously mechanized edge, which made you acutely conscious of how much
easier he could make life for himself.
Easy? No thanks. Anderson's priority with this collection was, he insisted, "breaking the code," meaning abandoning whatever comfort zone he'd created for himself. There was some irony in the fact that what came next was actually his most fully realized and accessible collection. Anderson carried over his gender games. The models had spit-smart schoolboy hair, but he imagined them as the "older, hyper-feminine" counterpart of the men he showed in June. He dressed them in masculine pinstripes, but tied them in a huge bow. In a typically surreal touch, he emphasized their womanliness by draping a clumsy swatch of black, "like a bad brassiere," across puffy, printed satins.
The designer called his collection "The Treatment Room," imagining it as "a lab where problems are worked out and solutions are found." There was certainly enough of that. But his convoluted thought processes also ran to irresistible merino knits, dissected so that what wasn't there was just as important as what was. Here, the cerebral intention actually paled beside the physical execution. The knits were pretty. Pretty? Anderson blanched.