Requiring viewers to assemble and collection themselves, the designer’s second portable presentation invites us to participate in a process uniquely shaped by the present

Jonathan Anderson wants to put the viewer in charge. Wrapped in newspaper and bound with screws, the designer’s Spring/Summer 2021 presentation comes in the form of a book which, when taken apart, provides the ingredients to assemble the collection in epistolary form. The looks themselves are presented as perforated printouts, meant to be torn out and recombined with an array of photographs, colorful backdrops, and fabric samples. Through this act of personal assemblage, Anderson hopes to engage the user in a form of imaginative play, stating that he wants to “leave it to the viewer to come up with their own solution to the show.”

Replete with cascading fabric and fluid draping, JW Anderson’s latest collection evokes the delicate interplay between pared down elegance and expressive excess. This is communicated in the poetic tension between generous curves and pointed collars, statement sleeves and incongruous pockets; rich textures draw the eye past the voluminous silhouettes and fluid draping for which the brand is known. Floral jacquard, pleated motifs, and rich jewel tones dominate, while the airy, grecian quality and silky, asymmetric drape of pearlescent fabrics add a hint of lightness to the vision. The utilitarian edge of the coats is tempered by a surplus of pockets, or else softened by a fluttering sleeve and loose, undone styling that evokes a sense of movement just below the surface. The models, who confront the camera with a steely, focused gaze, are neither lost in the luscious drape of fabric, nor immune to it; juxtaposed with the varying photographic backgrounds, the starkness of their pose adds an irreverent edge to the presentation.

In a nod to the current global conditions, the brand describes wanting to make a show that “creates new engagement and new excitement that are only possible now,” rather than invoking what is currently impossible. By requiring user participation in order to assemble and visualize the collection, Anderson’s second show-in-a-box issues a call to engage, be present, and take part in a process that is uniquely shaped by this particular moment in time. “Usually in a fashion show, you are all about control,” Anderson explains in the video reveal. “I’m really trying to [in a weird way] mark or remember these parts of history [by] embracing the change and the challenge of it.”

This interactive presentation builds on ideas from his first show-in-a-box, which arrived complete with keepsakes like pressed flowers and fabric samples from the collection. Delivered by snail mail, both are a tribute to the process-oriented nature of a simpler time: in going analog, Anderson demands the viewer’s sustained attention at a time when streaming feels second nature. The resulting presentation is an ode to the creative constraint, and the ways it can be used to foster a spirit of play.

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