The weather in London today was very, very English: gray, damp, chilling. The Brits are resigned to weather like this; it's the beautiful days that astonish them. So imagine the disbelief and delight that attended this summer's long spell of sunshine: It may as well have been hailing pound coins and pink Champagne truffles. Everyone felt rich and sugar high. Energy like that is infectious, and one of the people this summer's heat wave got to was J.W. Anderson. "It was actually boiling in my studio," he explained after his show today. "Which really made me find an appreciation for bare flesh and lightness."
There certainly was a lot of bareness on the Anderson runway. But the designer worked it to his own formal ends, playing with various ways of draping, suspending, twisting, and gathering material in order to reveal maximal amounts of naked skin. One top, for instance, was pretty much just a handkerchief-sized square of sheer fabric with a semi-obscuring square of opaque, scrunched-together material at its center. Another look featured broad, paperlike strips folded together to make a top you could have easily mistook for a collar. Not for everyday use, these pieces, but Anderson likes to push. The nudity worked as a balance against the weight of Anderson's materials: This was a season of intensive textile development, with chevroned, linen-backed pleather; gossamer, organzalike nylon; thick embossed leather; multilayered sequined lace; and much more. Many of the materials appeared to have been sculpted into shape by hand.
There were a few looks that read as perhaps a little too weighty for Spring, but the individual pieces were so compelling, it would be uncharitable to nitpick. A more valid complaint might be that, here and there, Anderson fell back too much on a familiar clinical tone, when the freshest thing about this collection was its levity and sexiness. Many of these clothes were also uncharacteristically, well, prettyin particular, the show-opening group of long sheer skirts and matching, vaguely peasantlike tops. At this point, it's reasonable to expect J.W. Anderson to advance the technical and formal aspects of his brand by leaps each season; what made this outing such a wonderful surprise was that he stretched himself in terms of mood and point of view. You could even say it was a surprise analogous to a whole month of English sunshine.