Fashion is a conversation, not a monologue. Season after season, Jonathan Anderson reminds you of that. His supporters—and even some of his detractors—are wont to say about him, "He's really thinking about clothes." He is, but that isn't all. He's really talking about them, on the intimidatingly public forum of the regular, ritualized, umpteen-times-a-year runway, and he's letting them talk among themselves. The ideas in one collection are rarely entirely new. They're mutant derivations of ideas plucked from previous collections, spliced together and evolved. "It's very difficult to find new all the time," he said backstage. "We have to take a snippet of the dialogue onto the next one, so it's a running kind of story." That transcends the Fall/Spring divide ("Is showing more flesh more modern for winter than it is for summer?" he wondered aloud) and the man/woman divide. The men's collection is a feeder for and outcropping of the women's, stretched like taffy into its new form.
The nuts and bolts of his Spring menswear silhouette was an oversize trouser with a kind of tunic top, often in silk-lined sponge he compared to cheap headphones' foam. He fussed and knotted it about the neckline—an obsessive new point of focus—and gave it flyaway panels and dangling tails but stripped off sleeves (occasionally in favor of wraparound arm restraints, an idea he's been toying with in womenswear for seasons). It was long and lean, with a frosty elegance, but also just enough cartoonishness to make you wonder if he was taking the piss. But no, he explained: "When I think of a man, I think of that column architecture."
Some designers gloss their references with mods, punks, or movie stars. Fewer fantasize about columns. The potential downside of having so freewheeling a conversation about the possibilities of men's clothing—what, really, is off the table?—is that it reduces men to mere architecture on which to hang it. Then again, women like Nan Kempner used to call themselves clothes hangers with pride. So the ongoing dialogue continues. In the here and now, there's the odd but unassailable fact that Anderson staged the day's most compelling show.