The British fashion label’s first COVID-era collection gets you closer to the clothes than ever

JW Anderson’s Men’s Spring/Summer 2021 & Women’s Resort 2021 Collection, also referred to as “show-in-a-box”, is fashion’s silver lining in the industry’s uncertain future. At a time when a pandemic prevents the gathering of people from all over the globe for typical fashion week processions, Jonathan Anderson brings his show to the mailbox in the form of a literal present. Returning to before the add-to-cart era, when information was predominantly sent and received via mail, Anderson takes a more intimate and tactile approach with the presentation of his new collection.

The contents of the personal-sized show are wrapped in leftover fabric from the collection screen printed with calligraphy. Within the package are not only images of the collection but charming keepsakes like pressed flowers, a paper mask from the menswear collection, and small cards with wholesome phrases like “the future is unwritten” and “keep looking up.” Distinct from the fixed and limited duration of viewing a garment on the runway, presenting silhouettes on paper allows clients the freedom to view each piece at their individual pace and leisure. There are also fabric swatches in the box which inadvertently point out what is missing when we simply glance at a design on the catwalk. The opportunity to touch some of the fabrics in the collection is an acknowledgment that fashion is not just about the gaze or look, but also about how one feels wearing the garment.

Instead of using models in this show, Anderson decides to explore the use and concept of masks. The idea of a character or persona is heightened in the menswear collection with the use of masks of young men on top of mannequins and eliminated in the womenswear collection with the use of abstract, tapestry-like masks that transport us to another dimension. The garments in both collections contain contrasts between familiar domestic patterns and classic utilitarian shapes. There are many patchwork pieces and shapes that are simultaneously loose and sharp, taking the severity out of the military coat. In an era where domestic space has begun to define our lives, ushering in a resurgence of handicrafts, it’s no surprise that Anderson has highlighted the handmade, craft-like look of these pieces.

As high fashion is increasingly characterized by the glamorous bustle of the runway season, it is refreshing to see fashion tailored to the individual eye and adopting an appeal that is restorative, gratifying, and responsive. Anderson is proving that out of difficult times comes a creative flourishing and that the fashion world need not be tethered to a single mode of presentation. Though referred to as a type of ephemera, JW Anderson’s Show in a Box will be remembered as a pleasant outlier in the history of 21st century fashion and perhaps a chronicle of the tumultuous year 2020.