In his Spring/Summer 2023 collection, Jonathan Anderson extrapolates mementos of normality to incite surrealism
This past weekend, JW Anderson presented its Women’s Spring/Summer 2023 Collection in the heart of London’s Soho. The show was located at what initially resembled a local arcade, but on second glance looked more like a casino, steeped with games that center on a cash reward.
Jonathan Anderson doesn’t produce fashion in a normal sense—instead, he extrapolates mementos of normality to incite his surrealist approach to design. His latest collection for JW Anderson presented itself like a musical fugue: incorporating two “voices” that are counter-subjects of one another. On many points, I am uncertain and know nothing at all. But that being said, this collection invited my imaginative and corporeal participation not as a guest, but as a spectator to the period I am living through. And fashion rarely evokes that kind of reaction in me.
I don’t want to brood on the overdrawn nostalgia I usually see on the runway—displacing attendees and streamers, making them think it really was so much better back then. But I must say, this collection felt particularly current. It’s brave to embrace the present moment, to critique the very culture and climate you operate in on a daily basis.
The show began with the sound of being underwater, a feeling of sheer entrapment. It’s the morbid reality of the ocean, which is typically only experienced on the periphery. Instead of situating the audience on a remote beach, Anderson’s viewers were trapped beneath the tide. Dainty, dreamlike harps quickly began to fade into the soundscape, creating an uncanny cacophony that harmonized the paradoxical qualities of reality, and played on the inherent indulgence of fantasy within a present-day landscape riddled with sickness, war, and overconsumption. A vacation becomes that of chimera, and the venal game of life becomes commonplace.
The first look emerged with the harps: an unironed, oversized white t-shirt worn as a dress with a muted teal ankle boot. This is a moment I kept returning to, puzzled by a rectangular design positioned in the center of the garment. JW Anderson, Premium Blend, it read. It looked like a cross between a newspaper headline and a bag of coffee beans. It turned out to be a gigantic, displaced tag—Premium Blend alluding to cotton, not coffee. This was just one of the clever, allusory aesthetics that permeated the collection: a halter top made out of aged computer keys; a fringed fishnet dress; another resembling a gigantic, bulbous, metallic paperweight; an oversized plastic bag with a goldfish stuck inside. Within the parameters of the soundscape, compounded with fading pandemic regulations, I’d admit to resonating with the imprisoned goldfish.
JW Anderson tailored a collection sieved with the matter of everyday existence; items collecting dust in an bleak office space suddenly took on a new form—a reincarnation on the runway. It was jam-packed with fundamental, bold shapes, and augmented details to harp on the twisted mundane. Anderson furthered his collection by confronting realism with wearable stock photo imagery: pristine beaches with cerulean blue and turquoise water; playful dolphins captured in midair, and printed onto long-sleeved leotards and ankle-high, heeled boots. These idyllic visions are intermittent fantasies that can punctuate long days with your computer, where you forget what lies beyond the screen. With each fleeting look, brutal existentialism and escapism revealed themselves to be two predominant “voices” in the fugue.
This show was blunt and truthful, demonstrating a side of fashion that is not only satirical but also deeply self-aware; the closing look was a black t-shirt printed with a graphic remembrance of Queen Elizabeth. This was Anderson’s final gamble in his surreal game of life simulacrum. Do you want to play?