Words: Ciarán Howley
From Grindr live streams, vehicular-shaped smocks and now plant-infused garments, Jonathan Anderson knows how to make waves.
At his eponymous label and as creative director at Loewe, the Northern Irish designer remains at the vanguard with his surrealist humour and love for the natural elements. Nature or technology, asks Jonathan Anderson for Loewe Spring/ Summer 2023 menswear collection. The truth is somewhere in between.
At this year’s Paris Fashion Week, the Northern Irish designer presented his latest collection for the Spanish luxury house, Loewe. Appointed Creative Director in 2013, Anderson curates simultaneously for Loewe and his label, J.W. Anderson.
Take one look at the filmed presentation, and it begins to feel like a familiar rendition. From the scant all-white set, searing lighting and minimalist techno soundtrack, it all starts to feel a little ‘Balenciaga-ified.’
But not quite. Look down, and there is that flash of audacious creativity we expect. Grass shoes, followed by garments featuring representations of nature and landscape, mediated artificially in one sense or another. Mossy overcoats, shrub-lacquered denim and Mad Max-esque headguards, take us to a virtual realm where nature lives vicariously through technology. Fabric with the ability to nurture plant life was cultivated specifically for the collection, in a bioengineering twist no one expected.
As the planet burns, humanity seemingly grows more preoccupied than ever with finding ways to artificially replicate it. One standout design featured a tunic with twenty tablet screens relaying footage of birds and fish; docile and impractical. Known for his idiosyncratic style, Anderson has a flare for cultural commentary. He told WWD:
“In a weird way, we are becoming the screen somehow,” he mused, commenting on society’s inattentiveness to nature. “It’s this idea of how nature can lead technology, or technology can lead nature.”
Born and raised in Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, Anderson initially pursued acting and attended the Juilliard School in New York. Through his relocation to Ireland and employment at the department store Brown Thomas in Dublin, he began to pursue design. Cut to 2008, with a degree from London College of Fashion, Anderson would launch his self-titled label which grew popular for its nautical-inspired accessories.
In an interview with the Guardian, Anderson discussed how his upbringing in the North framed his view of fashion and life. “Car bombs, a town getting blown up. It was awful and confusing as a child to live through that, but it toughened me up. I don’t take anything for granted because I know that life is like a fuse.”
In the years that have followed, the designer has built a reputation as the fashion world’s newest wunderkind, spearheading two formidable labels. From streaming his Autumn Winter 2016 show on Grindr and tasteful Loewe collabs with Studio Ghibli, Johnathan Anderson is the mad genius fashion design needs right now. With cynicism rife, Anderson can strike that line between pop and high brow with deftness, integrity and a smile.
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