A slot as guest designer at Pitti can bring out a certain conservatism in designers. Even the most maverick of creatives can feel the pressure of presenting in front of hundreds of suit-clad, primed and preened Pitti peacocks, bastions of tradition and regulation when it comes to menswear. The Florentine trade-show is, keep in mind, the place where Gosha Rubchinskiy, a designer known for skate t-shirts and tracksuits, opened his show last year with a run of tailoring. But who’d have thought that Anderson, a man known for tireless provocation and innovation, would feel the pressure to tone things down? He’d left the high jinks behind in London.
In July 2012, I interviewed Anderson, then just an newbie on the scene, for this website’s In Fashion series. In the film, he quipped, 'No one wants to have sex with you if you look like a Christmas tree.' At points in his career, that sentiment has seemed at odds with the work he shows. But for S/S 18, he’d practiced what he preached. Backstage, he raised a similar point, noting he didn’t want it to feel like a 'Christmas tree.' He definitely had sex on the brain. He enthused that, 'Florence is one of the sexiest states there is. Everywhere you go there's nudity.' Perhaps that’s why he showed clothes that men could actually get laid in. He talked of going back to basics, and considering what men want from the J.W.Anderson label. His brand is now just shy of ten years old, so it’s an appropriate time to be taking stock.
There's a joke in fashion that Jonathan Anderson never wears his own menswear. Instead he looks fantastic in navy knits or t-shirts, jeans and converse. These were all here today. Goodbye bloomers and blousons, hello basics. There’s always a strange naivety to Anderson’s work - his boys look like boys, not men. Often they appear foppish or fragile. This spirit remained, despite the tone. These weren’t luxe, louche basics - not billowing shirts and finely tailored trousers in clear, putty tones, as Anderson could have explored. But boyish staples - denim, slogan t-shirts, flip-flops. The clothes one grows up in. Anderson had been looking back to his own past - his family coat of arms from back home in Ireland informed the branding and graphics. Some of theme raised eyebrows - a t-shirt with a military propaganda style image, featuring Anderson’s own face, and the strapline 'militant menswear' was a surprise. Elsewhere, he’d paused the fighting talk in favour of glittering hearts. Love and war together in one collection.
One slogan read 'J.W.Anderson Collector Cards.' That’s a good message for this highly sellable collection - buyers will snap up the pieces with the enthusiasm of Pokemon addicts, keen to get as many of them as possible. Anderson’s playing safe for S/S 18 - what an unexpected twist.