September 20, 2011 London
Over the last three seasons, Anderson has gained a clarity of vision that has really seen him truly arrive as a designer—one who seems particularly relevant for now. Starting the proceedings of the Man Day in London, he presented something subtle and nuanced about both genders that really should not be seen in isolation from his womenswear—both shows, after all, were titled Craft Goes Machine. It is his concentration on both sexes, as so often happens, that has seen him grow as a designer.
Splicing together the genetic codes of clothing, of archetypal garments, and X and Y chromosomes was once again his preoccupation this season; here he seemed almost to be genetically modifying menswear and womenswear. "I want to build the architecture of women into men and vice versa," said the designer. But this aim is as far away from drag as you can get. Subtly shifting the same techniques and clothing types from one sex to another had the effect of toughening up the whole and allowing connotations to shift. For example, the intricate interwoven leatherwork that was more purely decorative in the women's collection became something reminiscent of chain mail and historically protective garb in the men's. Where raffia had been used in the earlier collection, here it appeared in sturdier, utilitarian form in the rucksacks.
Like menswear against womenswear, the handmade and crafted was pitted against the machine-made and mass-produced to produce a new synergy. Anderson's signature paisley prints—"I'm obsessed by paisley and the idea of a certain kind of repetition"—took on an ultra-modern robotic quality and echoed the theme of the molecular again in the collection. Yet they were produced using older, more crafted techniques by Adamley in Macclesfield, which has been printing since 1700.
Altogether it went into making a collection that looked modern and yet had touches of the oddly ancient, even tribal, with strange and clashing textures, fabrics, and shapes. That it somehow worked just went further to show what a skilled designer J.W. Anderson is.