Found Objects Incorporated

JW Anderson shows in Milan for the first time, and it is somewhat surreal—those clothes, but not bereft of fun

We are not sure about London or Milan, where JW Anderson presently shows his collection, but are their streets overrun by food delivery guys on their bikes, unconcerned with the foot traffic, just like ours? We started thinking of that the minute the first look of Mr Anderson’s collection appears. The model has a bicycle handlebar in place of a neckline. Did a Grab rider crash into an unsuspecting, fashionably-togged pedestrian early in the morning (based on the soundtrack of chirping birds)? Not one but two of them! As the show continues, there are other accidents, too. A duo with cans of food crashed into something or someone and the lids of the purchases embedded on T-shirts and two skateboarders, their devices snapped into two. Bystanders were unscathed. There were ripped clothing bar codes (more shopping references), and those as if CDs were flung on them. JW Anderson’s collision of a show could be a thesis on the state of street fashion as seen on the street.

If the collection appears unhinged, it is not. Look carefully and you’d notice actual hinges used to secure the top half of T-shirts (and dresses) to the bottom half. Everything, in fact, looks more held together than initially perceived, even if those handlebars are a balancing act. Mr Anderson has worked these seemingly found pieces in his clothes before. Those holes on the tees formed by pried-open can lids are reminiscent of the kitchen sink filters of Loewe’s autumn/winter 2022. Similarly, the skateboards on the jumpers bring to mind of Loewe’s womenswear autumn/winter 2022, when a car seemed to be trapped in a skirt! Nonsensical it would be to the average fashion consumer, but when times are serious, uncertain, and complex, a little whimsy can be rather uplifting, even if weighted by bicycle handle bars.

If you are less inclined to want odd bits and pieces ensnared in your clothes (not even a manly gardening glove), Mr Anderson has other garments that would not, to your delight, be conversation starters anywhere you might wear them to. Sure, there are still dresses for guys, if you are inclined to express your inner Harry Styles (a puffy shift in Pikachu yellow?), but the separates at not too far out for you and your mates. The denim double jeans (twofer, really) are likely going to be a hit, so too the artfully torn sweaters (anything damage is coveted these days) and the T-shirt with the striped front on which there is a a rather cheery print of a boy wearing the same eating an apple.

The collection is reportedly inspired by The Pitchfork Disney, a 1991 play by the British novelist/scriptwriter Phillip Ridley. Mr Anderson re-read The Pitchfork Disney, which he had once perform when in the throes of wanting to be an actor years ago. The play is a dark, dreamlike piece that deals primarily with fear—childhood fear. Chocolate is featured in the story, as the two protagonists appear to subsist on it, but it makes no appearance in the collection, barely even by way of colour. Yet, a strange, possibly scary-looking Rembrandt in the 1630 Self-portrait in a Cap, Wide-eyed and Open-mouthed appears, massively intarsia-ed on sweaters. Looking startled, the man could be the selfie that startles, not the clothes.

Screen shot (top) JW Anderson/YouTube. Photos: gorunway.com

What’s Juergen Teller Doing In The JW Anderson Lookbook?

Oh, we are living in body-positive times. And there’s a place for middle-aged men in briefs among young girls

An almost-naked middle-aged man, posing with rubber tyres, however artistic we are led to believe, is still the almost-naked middle-aged man, posing with rubber tyres. That the photos were shuffled between those featuring young models, some scantily-clad, isn’t supposed to caused discomfort to the viewer. It is, after all a fashion shoot executed in inclusive times. The placement of said man is beyond problematic or controversial too because he is, in fact, the photographer who has appointed himself as the non-Adonis counterpoint to the nubile lasses. This is what it is this season at Loewe. The LVMH-owned Spanish brand has engaged the German photographer Juergen Teller to lens it, as it is, the brand’s spring/summer 2022 lookbook. Mr Teller gleefully places his self-portraits among the images of models he, too, shot for Loewe. Sure, he is no stranger to the inclusion of himself in commissioned work. In 2019, he shot and starred in the Asics collection designed by Kiko Kostadinov. He was not doing Eric Rutherford, for sure, yet those trashy images seemingly bothered no one. And here he is at it again, in Speedo-skimpy undies (or swimwear?), sometimes caught in the middle of a tyre—in one photo, his buttocks towards the viewer.

We know what Mr Teller is saying as a photographer, but what is he communicating as a model? Is there a sexual message when he places his avuncular body through the centre bore of those tyres or through a stack of them? Or are they just innocent and playful poses? It has been suggested that he is satirising the annual calendar of Italian tyre maker Pirelli. Really? Or is his holding of a tyre in each hand a parody of Herb Ritts’s 1984 shot Fred with Tyres? Presumably he will be paid as a photographer, but does that mean he too will be compensated for being a model? Photographers, as far as we’re aware, do not place themselves in the pictures they shoot for clients. These photos of Mr Teller are too numerous to be considered a professional intro to the work the brand is presenting. Certainly no small photo byline or credit. Of the 26 photographs shared, six are of Mr Teller, which amounts to a not insignificant 23 percent. What value does his aberrant participation bring to the fashion of JW Anderson? Frankly we do not know. These are indeed difficult-to-understand times.

What about the clothes? That man isn’t wearing any! So we examined the models who are—some scantily clad, like much of this season, so far. As fabric is increasingly immaterial in fashion, it requires close scrutiny—not necessarily successful with these ‘action’ shots—before we could make out what the key message JW Anderson is trying to communicate for next spring, apart from being cheeky by planting Juergen Teller in the series of photographs set in a tyre yard, a site Richard Prince might like to go to for his Blasting Mats. Did the dirty-looking space, traditionally the domain of men (no?), enhance the choiceness of the clothes? Are they prettier when you can even discern the smell of rubber? Are they more delicate when juxtaposed with the heftiness of the tyres. An average car tyre will apparently last about 60,000 miles, according to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (or 96,560 kilometres; about going from the far east of our island to the far west 1,931 times). Are these clothes as durable?

It appears that Mr Anderson is in a playful mood. The models are not in a can’t-be-bothered-to-do-anything pose. They seem to be discovering the enjoyment potential of a working-class surrounding normally not conducive to a fashion shoot. There is no clear theme in the designs, but they bear the JW Anderson hallmark for artsy details on clothes that look like the result of some advanced home-sewing class. There are short ultra-circular skirts, dresses with handkerchief points (one with an impossibly low back), and more slips for the cocktail hour than you’ll ever need. Accessories (still searching for a teeny bag?) seem to be as important as the clothes, and the footwear, in particular, will massively appeal, especially the heeled, thonged sandals. The collection points to the anticipated return of social fun, even if, for now, the models look like they were not posing for posting on Instagram. OnlyFans, perhaps?

Photos: JW Anderson

Two Of A Kind: Cock-A-Double-Do

Staying at home means spending more time online. Not necessarily a bad thing: You get to see a lot, including, like it or not, accessories in the stylised shape of the male genitalia

JW Anderson Vs Vivienne Westwood

By Ray Zhang

Let it be known, I am no prude, but that is not to say I am partial to accessories that depict the male sex organ. Lockdown, a noun I have not heard of until four months ago, is motivating us to go online for all our amusement and entertainment. E-shopping, I hear, isn’t quite a major pursuit, but bored stay-at-homers are spending considerable time parked between HTMLs. If buying—for adornment, especially—is stricken by limited appeal, online viewing may not translate into offline wearing. Besides, who really cares about what is worn within the four walls of home, or when snuggling in bed with a notebook, or when you start to wonder, as the popular beng retort goes, “wear to where”? Yet, these dick danglies are out there.

They were likely conceived before daily grind and telecommuting merged (not mingle!), when some of us still had the habit of looking into a closet, or accessory drawer. One is in leather, the other in steel, and both depict an organ not in flaccid state, which is understandable since a limp phallus would be a downer if it were to arouse even the mildest shock. On the left is a JW Anderson charm that looks like something destined for a handbag, not likely a Birkin. On the right is a Vivienne Westwood keyring with the carabiner shaped like a boner. Nothing exceptionally shocking here as Ms Westwood has already released a larger penile likeness in 2014, in the form of the Penis Clutch Bag.

I’m not sure who these are designed for. Would a man buy either piece for himself or for a lady friend? Or for another man? Would a woman buy for herself or for a male friend? What does succumbing to its appeal say, even if both do not correspond to sexual excitement? Could they have pride of place next to Line’s popular Brown or Coney, frequently in charm form? Or has buying and gifting conventions changed so much that products need to come under the umbrella of porno-suggestive to be buyable and giveable? Is this timely, considering that even the BBC reported, while debunking its immune-boosting advantage, acknowledged that, during masturbation, “men had higher white blood cell counts when they were sexually aroused, and during orgasm”? Frankly, I really don’t know, but do click and add to cart.

Product photos: source

Two Of A Kind: Cotton Work Jacket

In the work wear category, which is better: Dior or Uniqlo?

 

Dior Vs UniqloTwo work-wear-style cotton jackets: Dior (left) for women and (right) Uniqlo X JW Anderson for men

When we saw this Dior jacket in the window of the brand’s Takashimaya Shopping Centre store, we did a double take. Had we not just seen a very similar piece at Uniqlo a short while ago?

It was a day after Uniqlo’s launch of its collaborative line with JW Anderson, the fifth season since its debut in 2017, now including a kid’s capsule for the first time. Described as “British country style”, the result is more Land Girls than To the Manor Born, South Downs than South Bank. Mr Anderson knows what he can do with a mass brand such as Uniqlo. While the Britishness is arguable in the hands of the Japanese, the clothes are an agreeable interpretation of idyllic-meets-high-street. With Uniqlo, Mr Anderson has consistently offered his version of British outerwear (winter coats have been especially appealing), and this men’s cotton work jacket is another to add to the pairing’s repertoire, and continues to expand on Uniqlo’s own contemporary-fit versions.

That Dior needs to produce a jacket of such proletarian provenance for its women’s wear is a little more than mind boggling. Or, that such an item need to be sold alongside the brand’s own signature Bar jacket, is indication that Dior, like many other luxury labels, is studying with palpable seriousness from the playbook of money-churning mass brands. The line between fashion and clothing is blurred to the point that you can’t see if there’s a demarcation in the first place, like the smudgy marks of past and present scribbles on a black board that never benefited from a thorough wipe down. It is apposite to say that Dior, more than ever, is traipsing into the territory that Uniqlo and the like hold court. In this court—of numbing mono-culture, why be different when you can be the same?

Photos: (left) Dior and (right) Uniqlo

A Ritual Beauty

With a strong, seductive collection this season, is JW Anderson London’s most engaging designer and captivating label?

 

JWA SS 2020 P1

We can’t really say why, but the first thing that we saw, charmed by JW Anderson’s collection for his eponymous label, are present-day maidens dressed for timeworn rituals in even more ancient sites, such as the Stonehenge. These pilgrims are togged for celebration; their organic-looking garbs suitably trimmed with what look like trinkets made in worship-worthy silver and gold, and crystal. Some of the drapey dresses come with decorated crystal/rope bust-cups, as if the wearers are of higher birth and deserving of the land’s weavers and craftsmen. Even the suits, with pants tied (or gathered) at the hem (forming part of the rope-sandal) to create a delectable slouch (which, interestingly, is also seen in Gucci’s fall 2019 campaign), have a high-priestess swagger about them. Some of the models-as-pagans wear cross-body bags with a trio of fringed pouches—possibly filled with food for the long hike? And those dresses with embellishment-framed cut-outs? Off to a fertility rite!

This isn’t pomp and pageantry, but there is a ceremonial splendour about it. This is dressed-up with attention to seemingly organic details and, perhaps unintended, symbols of emancipation and, clichéd as it might be, empowerment. We can’t ignore the sparkly ropes that frame the breasts in the shape of the infinity symbol, suggesting limitlessness, even eternity.  Or, as a figure eight, despite being on its side, like a reclining Buddha, a powerful homophone in Chinese culture that denotes prosperity. That these shall be the most sought-after dresses during the next Lunar New Year won’t surprise. Worn with a neo-Bohemian attitude, the effect is refreshing in a time when decked out means either Icon Ball-flashy or ‘blogshop’-backed influencer bosh.

JWA SS 2020 G1JWA SS 2020 G2

The craft-like approach to the clothes is, of course, not new to Mr Anderson. Since taking up the creative director position at Loewe in 2013, he has slowly pushed the Spanish label closer towards its artisanal roots, and, with the RTW, a folksy bent without crossing into shabby chic territory that Rachel Ashwell would approve. For his own line, he similarly approaches designing and embellishing with the spirit of crafts that are more in keeping with those found in villages than tribes, and yet the result is not hippy-fied or clothing you’d find in shops in Haight Ashbury, untouched by the passing of time.

As fashion is more and more consumed without considering the worth of the labour behind what is bought, or even the creativity and the skills, Mr Anderson’s ways with shapes and trims (in unexpected permutations and pairings) affirm that skilled hands are involved and can be enjoyed for the tactile qualities of the output too, in ways that are not only inspiring, but also heartfelt. Clothes like these require appreciation that’s not cursory or just visual; they invite both viewer and wearer to explore by touching and feeling.

JWA SS 2020 G3

The ‘traditional’ touches do not, however, mean old-fashioned or even classic. There is a good balance—stores will appreciate—between sufficient unusual pieces that will delight collectors (the jackets with Victorian silhouettes and their bumped up hips, which Mr Anderson described as “Antoinette-ish”) and the more accessible such as goddess gowns (for a pagan mission?), as well as knit dresses and their 3D geometric patterns. The accessories (bags with macrame attachments and fringes) and shoes (bejewelled, roped, espadrille-soled) will no doubt be hits of their own too.

In spirit, the collection may be described as post-modernist if we take into consideration how not linear it is aesthetically, how Mr Anderson has created his own cultural hybridity, tinged with the exotic, if we can call it that, and how natural—as in unforced—the result are. That every ensemble is a tad quirky helps his cause, for sure. We can’t wait to see what he shall be doing for Loewe in Paris.

Photos: JW Anderson

Tote Of The Season

If the latest Burberry collection is any indication, the tartan tote is the bag to have now. Joining the fray is this love child of JW Anderson and Uniqlo: a padded, nylon version that is totally able at playing cabin carrier or baby bag.

The partnership between JW Anderson and Uniqlo is launched today. It is one more to add to Uniqlo’s growing collaborations that adhere more to the Japanese brand’s strive for beautiful practicality than practically beautiful.

Lest we’re misconstrued, there’s nothing unlovely about this collaboration. Everything is very Uniqlo. That’s where it risks being a non-event. Mr Anderson is currently one of the UK’s most beloved designers and a much lauded innovator at the Spanish house of Loewe. With such an evocative name, more—reasonably so—is expected, but, as we know, rain doesn’t always come after thunder and lightning.

This is supposed to be a take on British classics. It is, however, no more English than Ines de la Fressange X Uniqlo is French. Inevitable are outers and sweaters that suggest country (or collegiate) life, shirts (for men and women) that won’t enliven a wardrobe, and scarves that look positively part of the uniform of Hogwarts. One skirt stood out, though: a flounced, maxi piece that wouldn’t be out of place on a flamenco dancer.

Back to the tote, this is one of those that we can never have enough. A roomy and light carryall (also available in red and black) that’s not too big, it is as ready for the gym as a weekend jaunt in Bangkok.

What’s especially useful is the little PU patch on the bottom right. In roughly one and half times larger than that found on the right of the rear waist band of jeans, it not only allows the JW Anderson logo—a stylised anchor— to be identified, it is also a pocket that’s perfect for totally wireless ear-buds or the CEPAS card. Now, that’s nifty.

Update (11.30am): all the tartan bags are sold out.

JW Anderson X Uniqlo tote, SGD49.90, is available at Uniqlo, Orchard Central and online at uniqlo.com.sg. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Note: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that JW Anderson X Uniqlo is available at Uniqlo ION Orchard. This is has been corrected

No Piecing Required For This Puzzle

Loewe X Ray Puzzle Bag

One of the XL versions of Loewe Puzzle Bag, spring/summer 2016

Design directors installed at storied fashion houses often embark to output not only a body of work in ready-to-wear, but also in accessories, especially bags. JW Anderson is no exception. His work at the Spanish house of Loewe has been much lauded and his introduction of the Puzzle Bag last year excited many a fashion editor, intrigued by a carry-much so oddly and unconventionally faceted.

According to Mr Anderson, this is an accidental bag. At one of his visits to the Loewe archive in Madrid, he found a fake leather bag that was so old that its upper was all peeling skin. “I traced the lines where it had cracked off the leather,” said Mr Anderson to the media, “and this very abstract shape came out. I said to my assistant, ‘I think this is the bag!’”

Note that Mr Anderson avoided the adjective ‘It’. Yet, the indeterminate geometry and much-appreciated roominess at once placed the Puzzle Bag in the ‘It’ category, even when such a grouping may spell a premature demise in an era of too many ‘It’ bags. Still, Loewe is having a rather healthy run with the bag, scoring big among fashion ‘listicles’ and street-style rankings. Surely, such visibility is a plus than a minus.

Loewe Puzzle bag AW 2015 pink

The Puzzle Bag in the Loewe autumn/winter 2015 collection

What’s really surprising is the speed in which the Puzzle Bag spawns what’s considered a men’s version. Successful women’s bags rarely cross into men’s wear. Carrying the Hermès Haut À Courroies does not mean you’re holding a male Birkin. Although it does not come branded as ‘homme’ or such gender-specific tags, the XL version (there are four sizes in all)—sans handle—is positioned to tempt the guys. It is not surprisingly that a man may be drawn to Puzzle Bag since the visual concept of the bag could appeal to those with a penchant for geometrical complexity.

The Puzzle Bag is assembled from 20-plus cuts of leather (or other material), allowing each plane to take on different colours and textures. This flexibility encourages experimentation, and Mr Anderson has been adventurous—in particular, the limited-edition X Ray Puzzle Bag (top). This XL version looks like it is made from a collage of manga pages, only more luxurious since it’s a juxtaposition of textured, embossed, printed, and calf leathers.  However you carry this Puzzle Bag, it is the magazine Nakayohi meets the district Roppongi!

Loewe X Ray Puzzle Bag, SGD7,550, is available at Casa Loewe, Paragon