It’s appropriate that one of the references for J.W.Anderson’s S/S 17 collection was The Little Prince. Anderson caters to a new kind of royalty. ASAP Rocky sat front row, fresh from working with the designer on a collaboration. It’s the new influencers - the new style doyens and dandies - who go for Anderson’s work. It’s not for the suited-and-booted brigade but those majestic very modern icons who dominate social media and are worshipped to the point that they can shift product through a single name-check - the kind of guys who are confident enough to dabble also in womenswear, or wear the kind of gender-bending items Anderson pushes. Indeed, many like to call Anderson irreverent or provocative, but he’s good at predicting the mood of the crowd. When he showed ruffles, frills and girly garb on his menswear runway years ago many mocked, now gender fluidity is one of the biggest cultural conversations. In that sense, Anderson is a new kind of fashion royalty too - a designer who realises that the new generation doesn’t want expected ’luxury’ or repackaged remnants of antiquated dress patterns based on societal expectations, but product that symbolises some greater sense of identity and principals. He may have penetrated the system, but Anderson is a designer for the young and the unconventional.
It’s apt then that alongside The Little Prince, Anderson was giving a shoutout to another young boy - Peter of Peter and the Wolf. Together with DJ Michel Gaubert, Anderson has started a tradition of having spoken word at his shows, both under his own label and Loewe. This season, the narration from Sergei Prokofiev’s composition featuring the instruments depicting each character played as the models appeared. The flute, the clarinet, the bassoon. These childish nods make sense - boyishness is central to Anderson’s world. His designs are foppish and fey. His clothes look like they're ready to be grown into. That was particularly notable this season with sweaters with sleeves so long they practically dragged along the floor. A little joking reference to the Vetements obsession from the original new-kid-on-block? Perhaps. Elsewhere, there were remnants of uniform - bombers, flight suits, shirts in military hues. One thought of little boys dreaming of being soldiers, sailors or pilots. As always, there were nods to Anderson’s past work - he’s as good at referencing himself as he is paying homage to other designers - in the bold checks (which at the time were so heavily referenced by others) and strange warped cartoon graphics. The shoutouts to other greats worked well - the Geoffrey Beene folded sleeve tribute worked better here than it did at Celine a few seasons back. It felt authentic and modern, rather than a blatant reproduction.
One line from the audio stood out in particular. ‘Peter, without the slightest fear, stood behind the closed gate and watched all that was going on.’ That’s a bit like Anderson with his eagle eyed view over what’s happening in contemporary culture and on neighbouring runways - watching, observing, getting into scrapes, mashing it all together and triumphing in the end.