J.W. Anderson is one of the most divisive designers of his generation, which is not to suggest that he isn’t brilliant. His collections split viewers into two camps: you either love his work or you hate it. His challenging designs are at once wildly imaginative, artistic, and impossible to ignore, but they are also bulky, top heavy, and difficult to navigate the real world in. Anderson is an interior-design aficionado who has taken his obsession and applied it to fashion by becoming an exterior designer for the human body.
He is a magician when it comes to construction, a surrealist when it comes to composition, and an absurdist when it comes to risks, but for all intents and purposes, his methods work – his sales climb every year, and that is a fact that cannot be argued. For Fall/Winter 2016, Anderson adds another role to his creative vitae: alchemist. His weird, intriguing proposition for the forthcoming season blends elements of interior design with Chinese military garb, organic shapes borrowed from nature, and otherworldly futurism. It was a heady display that underscored Anderson’s ability to really make you think about fashion in a way that you may never have considered before, but, regardless, it forces everyone who sees it to have an opinion.
For Fall/Winter 2016, Anderson adds another role to his creative vitae: alchemist.
Because Anderson consistently creates his own language for fashion, his designs are difficult to explain. The first look is a great example of his distinct approach, which is translated onto a purple track-suit top from which a three-dimensional pocket protrudes from the chest like a flag. Below is a fitted skirt ringed at the bottom with a stiff, rippled peplum. A puffy printed top comes next, paired with a densely ruched pair of long “shorts” – two pieces that appear in different incarnations throughout the show. There are also mannish silk trench-dresses worn with low-slung diamanté belts that are at least a foot wide, stiff tunics brushed with strands of print that resemble coarse hair, puckered suits with multiple zip-away attachments and sheer balloon sleeves, an optic white top that resembles window blinds, and looks outfitted with strange “collars” that jut far past the shoulders.
Some of his creations mimick the appearance of Qing armor, with its severe studded facades and precision angles, while other looks are soft and folded in on themselves, like his pretty little petal skirts made from turgid layers of alternating lengths. One of his best looks is also his simplest: a gorgeous cream-colored cape dress covered in circular paillettes in random spots along the surface. The most buzzed-about portion of his show is owed to his astonishing accessories, which feature diamanté bags, heels covered in multi-colored leather cutouts that resemble pointed reptilian scales, and leather wrap-around shoes.
Anderson’s work doesn’t fit into the current lexicon and it never has. It possesses its own identity and never traffics in trends, which makes it an isolated example of one man’s individual vision executed with a sort of edgy nonchalance that conveys a message most designers would not dare put forth; love it or hate it, Anderson will keep advancing his ideas of fashion. And fashion will be a better industry for uplifting a designer who refuses to water down his avant-garde work so that it is more palatable to the consumer.