It’s hard to imagine it, on the basis of his last few collections, but what defined JW Anderson when he was first starting out was his romanticism. His debut collections were beautiful and fey affairs, shot through with a love of Celtic mythology, Arcadian British history and poetry. But as he found success — it’s hard to remember that he’s still only 28, so accomplished and fully realized is his body of work — he hardened up. The menswear got kinkier and the womenswear got more minimal. For spring 2014, however, he revisited some of those old dreams.
The show-openers were gauzy, virginal confections fit for sci-fi milkmaids. Chin-high and floor-length, dresses were strictly cinched-in to create shapes that were almost 18th Century in their cutting. The fact that they were constructed out of crisp nylon rather than muslin was an acknowledgement of Anderson’s masterly way with fabrics.
As the show continued, nylon and pleather pieces were folded into shapes that almost resembled bows, albeit without any flounce. He also paid lavish homage to the Japanese designers of the eighties. Pleating was paramount — sharp chevron shapes were somehow folded into leather — an unmistakeable Issey Miyake reference, while other pieces seemed to have been folded around the models, origami-like. And a lot of bare skin was on show, leavening the austerity — some of the asymmetrically cropped tops could almost have been collars, so sharply were they truncated beneath the bust, while the translucent techno-fabrics left little to the imagination.
One-shoulder tops and skirts in plastic, seemingly overlaid with chiffon, skated dangerously close to prettiness and some of the spaghetti-strapped, ruched gowns could grace any red carpet. No wonder LVHM is widely rumored to be adding the label to its stable. Conceptualism with an accessible edge is fast becoming Anderson’s trademark.