There was an irony to today's J.W Anderson show (unsurprising really; his collections are often ironic, playful or irreverent). Here is a designer known for being at the cutting-edge of fashion. Sure his brand name is getting increasingly ubiquitous post LVMH press-push and cash-injection, but for the most part he's worn by those in the know, cherished by people who want to look like they are at the forefront of culture; those who are educated. Yet, for A/W 15 he was paying tribute to those at the tail end of fashion. This seemed to be an homage to the bad styles and odd shopping choices of women living in realms where access to good fashion and up-to-date style information is limited. (If being flippant you'd call it Soviet Bloc chic.) It was about women who still think eighties power shoulders and Pat Butcher earrings are in style. Women who have bouffant hair and a penchant for printed lamé and knee high boots. Women who the minimal slouchy suit and trainer look has totally passed by. Women to whom understated means nothing. Fashion to them is still dresses and heels. For a designer who resolutely made his name and built his business on daywear, this homage to dressing up - albeit not evening-wear as we traditionally know it - felt exciting and fresh, subversive even.
Anderson's collections always feel self-aware. Some will criticise this for being willfully odd, ugly even. They'll say it looked outdated, but that was the point. Anderson likes to be in your face - sometimes with flesh, sometimes with fit, other times form - and this season it was with time. As other designers rest on their laurels and push cute sellable swinging seventies shapes he gave us a bigger dollop of retro than any flare-monger or suede-wheeler on a neighbouring runway could hope to. He pushed the eighties to the point of bad-taste, and when that's a decade that birthed some of the worst styles in history - neon, leggings, mullets, acid-wash - that's no mean feat.
But while this may have been all about the past in aesthetic, as always Anderson is never truly looking backwards. Progression and growth is everything to him and he'd clearly set new goals and boundaries. An interesting development was the focus on key looks and singular outfits. In the past he's been a designer who worked with sets and groups - punchy trios of outfits that look good online and in catwalk imagery. Now he doesn't need to court online press or make it easy, so he'd had fun with focusing on each outfit as an individual. That's a good summary of how he's treating his work in general - now, it's less about the show, more about the sales. You felt the shopper's presence more heavily than ever today. It was a collection about women - how women get dressed, how women shop trends, how women make themselves up for a night out, even how women get it wrong sometimes. It was about the joy of interpreting style and selecting clothes. How rousing.