Jonathan Anderson is one of the most forward-thinking designers working today, no doubt! The overachiever can smell your needs and create around them effortlessly both under his own brand, JWAnderson, and Loewe – the 168-year old Spanish luxury leather goods house. In between fittings and his duties as this year’s president for the 35th International Festival of Fashion, Photography, and Fashion Accessories of Hyères, the designer, art curator and cultural agitator sits down to answer a few questions.
FilepMotwary: Mr. Anderson, the world is facing new challenges since the emergence of the pandemic. I am wondering how it affects you as a person, as a fashion designer? What were the immediate changes in the ways you work?
JonathanAnderson: Every day, every week, every collection we have done since the pandemic began feels like it has presented new challenges. I spent the majority of the first lockdown in the UK. It felt like things slowed down for a moment and I took that time to kind of reflect. I reread some favorite books and just took time to think, but at the same time, the work for the collections didn’t stop. We were in the middle of the collections but the teams were great. We had fittings via Zoom and samples trafficked by post. I spent a lot of time on Zoom.
FM: I wonder what have you been doing during the lockdowns? How did you spend your time?
JA: I never really stopped working actually. The pace slowed down for a moment but it didn’t take long before it picked back up again. In recent years designers have spoken about fashion as a community. I wonder what does this term represents now, at a time when people cannot be together in ways we are used to? I think the community can mean a lot of different things as we have seen recently. I miss seeing all the journalists and friends at fashion shows, in that kind of community sense, but what I think is super interesting about this moment we are living in right now is the ability for people to continue to speak to their communities online and on social media. In some ways, I feel like our community has gotten even larger because fashion is now all being presented online and so it’s available to more people.
FM: Your work for JW Anderson brand as well as for Loewe, is multifaceted. You build the silhouette in layers, the body you see as the ultimate platform for expression, experimentation, and transformation. Your collections are full of ambition, texture, volume, surprise. Yet this was not always the case, your stardom was much humbler design-wise. What freed you?
JA: I’d like to think I have always been free. Manuela Pavesi once said to me, and it’s stuck with me forever, ‘Never compromise’ and I think that is really freeing. As JW Anderson has grown I think I’ve been able to do more because of the size of the business and just resources but I don’t feel like I needed to be freed.
FM: Why is it important to contextualize and translate your work through campaigns? How does visualizing serve the ways we think?
JA: My first experience really with fashion was in magazines when I was younger. I think that has always kind of stayed with me. I also think creating images and campaigns is about collaboration and working with incredible photographers and models and stylists. It’s really incredible to see it all come together with a really strong image.
FM: What about the cultural zeitgeist? Does one need to be cultured to understand fashion?
I think there is, at least for me, a connection between culture and fashion. I think good fashion and good design are about understanding the cultural zeitgeist and being in touch but I think it’s rather elitist to say you have to be cultured to understand fashion.
FM: Your womenswear collection for FW20/21offered new options for power dressing however it was also about causing a stir through shapes and materials – tweets translated into huge trapeze shapes, blown-up classics, large leather shawls. What is the initial concept behind this collection?
JA: It was really about this idea of volume and movement. Extreme volumes with these metallic materials and the shawl collar of the coat in leather that was exploded. I also think it was about structure and almost architectural in a way.
FM: When it comes to your role as a creative director, do you feel that you propose clothes to live in, fight in, or clothes as an excuse for fantasy, that goes against our everyday reality? Which do you find more powerful let’s say and why?
JA: I think ultimately, it’s just about good design and making clothes people want to wear and feel good in. In my collections for JW Anderson, I feel like there are pieces that could feel like a fantasy or pieces that feel more living in every day.
more living in every day.
FM: What about menswear, who is the man you design for? Why did you link your FW collection with activist and mixed-media artist David Wojnarowicz. Why are we responsible for what we think and how we take action?
JA: For JW Anderson I think of menswear as kind of the fantasy of how I would like to dress. I like to think of the man as a bit of a cultural agitator, challenging norms or stereotypes and I think David Wojnarowicz creates that kind of agitation too. I have always been a fan of his work and wanted to collaborate with PPOW to do something around David. I’m really proud of the Burning House pieces from that collection. I think that piece in particular has a very powerful message for the times we are living in right now.
FM: How can craft innovate in the next decade? Will there still be room for handwork you think?
JA: I think craft is incredibly important. I support craft and craftsmen wherever I can at both LOEWE and JW Anderson. What’s really interesting is there are these artisans that have these incredible skills from historical art forms but they are adapting them to make more modern pieces but keeping that quality of craft.
FM: Mr. Anderson, can we create fashion that is not linked to the past? How do you balance continuity with novelty? Is it easier said than done?
JA: I think it’s possible but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to reference the past. Right now, is a really interesting period because there are these young designers coming up that are doing new things that are incredibly interesting. I recently had the honor of being the President of the Fashion jury for Hyeresfestival and there were so many talented young designers trying new things. It was refreshing. Obviously, for business, you need continuity sometimes but there also has to be a novelty to remain creative.
FM: What once was the idea behind a brand was the production of fantastic products. Nowadays, the designer is also the curator of the brand’s image on social media, and so on. There are many more factors to conclude the idea of a fashion house. Terms like community and retail go hand in hand. Why have things evolved into this new demanding state?
JA: In the end, I think it’s really about storytelling and today we just have more platforms and ways to tell the story. Fashion has always been about creating fantasy and telling stories. It’s just nowadays you have to tell that story on Instagram and Facebook and TikTok and so on.
FM: Is there room for desire in today’s fashion? I hope so. I think so. I like to think that the fashion we are making is desirable. How easy or difficult it is to define ourselves through clothing today? Why do we have this need of defining everything anyway?
JA: I don’t know that there is a need to define everything. I think it depends on who you are and how you consume or purchase fashion. I think for some they can use fashion to portray who they want to be or to make them feel comfortable or desired. I think for some it’s just about comfort. I think fashion is what you make of it.
FM: Do you view your clothes differently after you present them?
JA: I think my view on the collections changes over time. I might look back and think we could have tried another material or done a different way. I don’t think it’s about second-guessing it’s just about staying curious and wanting to explore …
One of the industry’s most feted British designers, Jonathan Anderson — the eponymous creative director of JW Anderson — is internationally heralded as a significantly original talent. Since his 2013 appointment as creative director of Spanish luxury house Loewe, he has exhibited a more refined take on his idiosyncratic aesthetic and in 2015 was awarded womenswear and menswear designer of the year at the British Fashion Awards, the first time any individual had been presented with both awards in tandem.
Initially, Anderson pursued a career in acting at the Studio Theatre in Washington DC An interest in costume design, however, led the Northern Ireland native to complete a degree in menswear design at the London College of Fashion , from which he graduated in 2005. After working as a visual merchandiser for Prada under the tutelage of Miuccia Prada ’s right hand Manuela Pavesi , Anderson launched his career as a menswear designer in 2008.
He was quickly singled out as “one to watch,” receiving sponsorship from the British Fashion Council ’s NewGen committee in 2010, and presented his first catwalk collection at London Fashion Week, after building a reputation through sponsored collections created for Topman. At the request of fans, Anderson also launched a capsule womenswear collection at the start of 2010, which received instant critical acclaim and commercial success and saw him secure a second NewGen sponsorship.
In September 2012, Anderson collaborated with high-street giant Topshop on a limited-edition collection of clothing and accessories that sold out within hours of launching. Anderson produced a second collection for Topshop in February 2013 and in June 2013 showcased his first collection for Versace’s diffusion line Versus.
In September of 2013, LVMH took a minority stake in JW Anderson and hired Anderson to take the creative helm at Loewe, an LVMH-owned brand based in Madrid and best known for its leather goods.
Anderson has also been honored by the British Fashion Council with “Emerging Talent, Ready-to-wear” in 2012, “The New Establishment Award” in 2013, “Menswear Designer of the Year” in 2014, “Menswear Brand of the Year and Womenswear brand of the Year” in 2015, “Accessories Designer of the Year” and “British Designer of the Year — Womenswear” in 2017. In 2015 he was incorporated as a permanent jury member for the LVMH Prize and in 2019 named a trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum by UK prime minister Theresa May.