The giant billboard graphic of a penis was part of an installation that Jonathan Anderson set up at the Roundhouse to signify his fan-boy collab with Michael Clark, the legendary Scottish choreographer and dancer whose famed subversive performances rudely and joyfully blurred the lines between ballet, gay nightlife, and fashion performance in the early 1980s.
Anderson’s debrief on what that meant for his JW Anderson collection went like this: “In September of last year, we had a conversation with Michael, we’ve been trying to do something for while—and while looking through his archive, I was like, ‘Well, I can’t look through someone else’s archive without looking through my own. And I decided to take one element from every single collection of the last 15 years and try to work out a way in which you would merge two archives.”
Clark, he added, isn’t crazy about looking back, and nor is he—but he forced himself. “I wanted something which was about how do you kind of reconcile the past, and how do you deal with what you have done, because ultimately the job of a designer is going through a series of rejections of things. And it was really nice to kind of work out ways in which you could break everything. And maybe improve on them.”
Anderson was also consciously placing himself in a location which—though now poshed-up—was once a London venue that hosted riotous gigs and raves for decades since the 1970s. He’d been thinking along the lines of souvenir merch, kids collecting posters and the value—in the light of the death of Vivienne Westwood—of celebrating being a part of the British counter-culture.
Fans of Anderson will now get a chance to get their hands on reissues of his greatest hits—sort of. They were and they weren’t like the kangaroo-pocketed bustiers, done in some sort of fake furry chenille. In the original, the shape was part of what Anderson termed ‘the ruffle-short’ menswear collection of fall 2013. Ten years ago, it was the first to blow up the debate over gender that smoulders on to this day.
Anderson-ologists will have been playing spot-the-difference and name-the-season throughout. His big experimental voluminous shapes, coats in subverted country checks, and bound-arm knits came out, interspersed with tributes to his hero. At one point, a ‘classic’ JW Anderson anchor-logo sailor stripe t-shirt was simply over-printed with the name Michael Clark in luminous green lettering.
At other times recently, Anderson has talked about the urge to be ‘blunt’ about clothes. This collection had a lot of that bluntness about it: the fact that there were just a lot of very desirable everyday, non-gimmicky clothes in it. Grey trouser suits, really good bootcut pants with raggedy hems ticked that must-buy box.
The ability to create great merchandise while often doing things that will fire the internet at the same time has always been central to Anderson’s talent, and has sent him right to the top in Paris as one of the most significant designers of our times. It had been fun to look back, before moving on, he remarked.
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This article was first published on Vogue.com.