London's aesthetically dexterous boy wonder J.W. Anderson has just announced plans for an art exhibition, scheduled to open next year at the Hepworth in Wakefield. Disobedient Bodies is the title - and he must have been pondering a similar theme when compiling this collection. Compiling, not creating, is the key word here. Anderson is already a skilled curator - he doesn't need an art show under his belt to prove that. He unites, twists and clashes different references and themes, creating a familiar blend of crafty yet somehow chilly looks each season. So what had he been mining for S/S 17? The history of how fashion has manipulated, restricted and liberated the female body was on his mind. One jacket featured half a corset. The model was both laced and freed - obedient and disobedient.
Anderson has a skill for updating elements of historical dress and showing their relevance to modern concepts and debates. Remember when he kicked off fashion's gender fluditity moment with those bloomers and riding boots in his menswear S/S 13 collection? Today, he'd revitalised wholesome bias cut dresses and leg of mutton sleeves.
Indeed, there's a certain irony to the fact that Anderson was once the king of gender-bending. The designer who ushered in the genderless mood is now promoting more traditional femininity - skirts, dainty lace-ups, oversize adornmenets. Dresses were the key story here. Goodbye trousers, hello flowy hankerchief hems.
Anderson has a new penchant for dividing up his show space with walls that keep guests contained and crammed in their rows - up close and personal with the clothes. It's a subtle set - hardly a big piece of fashion theatre - but the effects are huge. It makes proceedings feel intimate, intense, uncomfortable even. As one model walked by her bucket bag hit the knees of everyone on the row. Thwack thwack thwack. That's an apt visual metaphor for Anderson himself. He bounds into the season. S/S 17 arrived with impact.