Dialogue with Jonathan Anderson: I’m Just the “Front Man” for JW Anderson

March 18,2021

Juggling the roles of creative director of a well-known brand and personal brand owner is a challenge for any designer in the fashion industry, and it's easy to lose track of both. But Jonathan Anderson has been able to handle it with ease, both at Loewe, the Spanish luxury brand owned by LVMH, and at his own label, JW Anderson.

Pictured above: JW Anderson; photo credit: Yu Cong

37-year-old designer Jonathan Anderson comes from Northern Ireland, and is one of the most sought-after designers in the fashion and luxury industry today. Having started out as a menswear designer in 2008, he has had many highlights over the past decade.

In 2010, he held a fashion show during London Fashion Week; in 2012, his limited-edition collection with Topshop was sold out within hours; in 2013, his personal brand was acquired by LVMH Group with a minority stake; at the age of 29, he became the creative director of LVMH's century-old brand Loewe; at the 2015 British Fashion Awards the brand received an historic double award, becoming Designer of the Year for both Menswear and Womenswear, the first time any brand has ever won both prestigious awards. These are just a few of the many accolades he has received.

Anderson is also one of the most open designers who is willing to talk to the media and share his thoughts and ideas. Recently, Luxe.CO got in touch with him for an in-depth conversation about the brand's philosophy, travel, craftsmanship and co-branding.

Whether in his own work, at JW Anderson or Loewe, you can see his two hedging qualities: a “cultural agitator” who is constantly experimenting and innovating, and a “heritage innovator” who is deeply committed to traditional craftsmanship.

“I can't decide for people whether they want to wear men's or women's clothing.”

“It has always been commented that JW Anderson can always stimulate thinking on humanity and society” when it comes to brand DNA, Jonathan Anderson said to Luxe.CO.

In 2008, Anderson, who graduated from London College of Fashion with a degree in menswear design, founded JW Anderson and attracted attention with his elaborate collection of accessories.

He is particularly adept at mixing masculine and feminine elements to create thought-provoking silhouettes that offer a modern interpretation of masculinity and femininity. This unique design aesthetic, which blurs the lines between men's and women's clothing, has led to comments that he is at the forefront of “unisex”, to which he explains frankly: “I can't decide for people whether they want to wear men's or women's clothing.”

Staying true to himself has always been at the core of Anderson's philosophy. In his opinion, staying curious and exploring and researching new things is one of the main ways he connects with the world and presents himself. “We always want to do things differently. I always build the brand on the reflection of myself, which is the idea of being curious about all different things, curious about gender, curious about art, curious about silhouette,” he said.

Exploring garment structure and silhouette and the relationship between clothing and gender are recurring themes in the JW Anderson brand.

The exploration of silhouette is one of the highlights of the newly released JW Anderson Women's Autumn Winter 2021 collection that cannot be ignored. As Anderson summed it up, the entire presentation “boils everything down to beauty, silhouette and pose”, and is “one of the most personal projects I have ever done.”

As a millennial, Anderson's youthful thinking and attitude towards fashion resonate more with the younger generation of consumers. His understanding of pop culture makes his designs, such as the cocoon sweater in the Women’s Autumn Winter 2021 collection, the vegetable and fruit print sweaters and hand-knitted radish-like outerwear in the Men’s Autumn Winter 2021 and Women’s Pre-Fall 2021 collections, quirky and fun, yet artistic and aesthetically pleasing.

His Spanish luxury brand Loewe is also gradually adding pop culture elements such as a comic print collection, Dumbo, Disney Goofy and more recently, Totoro.

A Nomadic Voyage: Second Collaboration with Moncler Genius

In his second collaboration with Italian luxury down jacket brand Moncler's Genius designer co-branding project, the latest season's theme is “A Nomadic Voyage”, which is arguably the most intuitive experience for Anderson, a travel enthusiast. The piece is divided into two sections, “Adventure” and “Optimism”, which both represent an eagerness for a long journey and a wish for the future.

Anderson explained: “I was looking at different art and artists whilst in lockdown and there were these paintings by a British artist of a seascape through a window. I really identified with that idea of escapism; of getting outside and heading towards the horizon.” The latest Moncler Genius collection has a strong sense of sailing and travel: the posters were shot on the beach; the eyelet design and stitching details, inspired by nautical clothing, were also used in the products.

This recognition may also originate from Anderson's own upbringing. As someone who spent most of his childhood in Ibiza, Spain, and grew up in a seaside town in Northern Ireland, seafaring stripes, squares and other sea-related elements can be found in his designs, such as the anchor in the JW Anderson logo, and Loewe's fisherman jeans.

“I'm more of a curator than a fashion designer”

In 2019, Anderson was nominated by the British Prime Minister Theresa May as the trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. He visited this museum for the first time when he was young, and visited it twice a month after moving to London. His deep connection with art and artists has been an indispensable part of his life.

For the JW Anderson Spring Summer 2021 ready-to-wear collection, the English poet Oscar Wilde was his inspiration, and the quote “The secret of life is in art” was used throughout the collection.

“I'm more of a curator than a fashion designer”, Anderson confided, and he is indeed a curator, having curated an exhibition “Disobedient Bodies” for the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in 2017.

Pictured above: the exhibition “Disobedient Bodies”

Aiming to explore how 20th and 21st century artists and designers have reconstructed the human form in their work, Anderson selected over 100 works of art, fashion, ceramics and design for “Disobedient Bodies” from artists such as Jean Arp and Louise Bourgeois, as well as fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake.

The exhibition also contributed to his acquaintance and friendship with the artist and potter Magdalene Odundo.

For the latest JW Anderson Women’s Autumn Winter 2021 collection, Anderson collaborated with Odundo and American artist Shawanda Corbett to create a limited-edition collection of six unique blankets based on three prints by each artist. There are two versions of these blankets, one of which is a hand-knitted version and is limited to ten pieces of each print, for a total of 40 pieces.

His acquaintance and collaboration with Corbett began when, during a brief easing of lockdown restrictions, Anderson saw her work at the Corvi-Mora gallery in London. He said: “She put a lot of containers with their own names on the site, while the surrounding walls displayed amazing paintings that I instantly fell in love with.”

Craft: Cornerstone of Creativity and Production

As a collector of ceramics for many years, Anderson notes: “I believe that craft is one of the cornerstones of creativity and production, and that fashion is closely related to production.”

Jonathan Anderson once said that he is only the “front man” for the brand. What really matters is every artisan and participant behind the scenes who makes the clothes. “That's why I've always believed that production and craft are more important than branding.”

He has also said: “When starting my own brand, I had always collected crafts, whether it was baskets or ceramics, or things that required a high level of handcraft to complete, and these have always been very tempting to me. The whole process, from starting with raw materials to a finished piece, is wonderful!”

In the interview with Luxe.CO, Anderson expressed his love for traditional Chinese crafts: “I went to China very early on. I really love craft, and sometimes I wish younger people in China would engage in making them more, because I think it has such an incredible history in terms of textiles, for example… I always like to focus on people, because there are so many exciting people, for example we focus on lantern makers or wood carving. There is so much in China that younger people should be excited about.”

丨Photo Credit: Brand official,
丨By: Elisa, Jiang Jingjin


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