J.W. Anderson: “I will never see fashion as an art form”

As his label is bought by LVMH, JW considers fashion's shelf life in an exclusive video

In light of LVMH acquiring a stake in J.W. Anderson and tapping him as the new creative director of Loewe, the designer sits down before his womenswear show and talks about his approach to fashion and his relationship with the commercial. 

It’s almost a week until J.W. Anderson’s womenswear show, but as I arrive at his studio in Dalston it seems he has already immersed himself in his next collection – resort or pre-fall, it’s hard to remember. For other designers this would be crunch time, but in the corner of the room I can see most of the new spring/summer collection hanging on a rail and feeling rather complete. 

It’s an appropriate topic to bring up considering Anderson’s name has come to light during recent discussions regarding ‘fast fashion’ – he produces two mens and womenswear collections a year, resort, pre-fall and additional projects like his guest collection for Versus. The pressure of ‘fast fashion’ has been the demise of so many designers, but for Anderson with his own self confessed “obsessive” way of working it appears that this is probably a blessing in disguise.

What’s more Anderson doesn’t consider himself an artist – nor does he consider fashion an art form. The idea of fashion being ephemeral doesn’t faze him – in fact, by the end of our interview he is quite confident in saying “I like the idea that there is a shelf life to it.” As we await his next collection, which will be revealed tomorrow, I’m pretty sure Anderson is already obsessed with the next thing.

Dazed Digital: Does your menswear show set the tone for your womenswear collection?

J.W. Anderson: They work with each other and they work against each other. Doing the men’s collection it’s a process of rejection. What I like in design is that progression, it can be a jolted progression but I like the consistency of our progression. It tights the overall impact and you develop ideas in a more concise way.

DD: The menswear SS14 collection was an exercise in proportion; when did your fascination with architecture start? I'm particularly interested in the lines and limitations it sets for you?

J.W. Anderson: Fashion is an archetype: you’re trying to build a silhouette, and that is very similar to building up a building because you’re trying to create a new structure, a new proportion, a new shape, and you’re using a material to cut which is a bit mathematical. That idea of finding something new in terms of proportion is something that drives me. For menswear I want to try to find something new. In that [menswear SS14] collection, I didn’t feel inspired by bottoms. I felt like we had nothing new to propose, I didn’t feel like there was any modernity there. Whereas the silhouette on the top half was a slow morphing, archetype-d thing.

I’ve never gone out to do anything controversial, I find it mundane that people think that

After that collection I wanted to go into a more relaxed structure; something you can see the bones through. Something which is less rigid, or has rigid elements, but is supported by a softer, light construction. Without doing menswear you don’t get that. As well I think you have to let yourself open up to the idea of wrongness. Sometimes you have to take that gamble because as a designer you want to evolve, and you can’t really evolve without criticism.

DD: Do you think there is an ephemeral nature to your work?

J.W. Anderson: I would say I work very emotionally; I have a very compulsive way of working, where I love something to the moment I am sick of it. I have no addiction outside of work, so my addiction is that process.

you have to let yourself open up to the idea of wrongness. as a designer you want to evolve, and you can’t really evolve without criticism

DD: You said after menswear that you want to take things in a more relaxed direction. Is this going to come out in the womenswear show?

J.W. Anderson: I hope so; the next womenswear collection was about harnessing ideas and taking them forward. We’re relaxed in terms of the casting; the overall vibe is going to have an awkward beauty. I want it to have a feeling of overall relaxation. I think this collection might be a little bit more feminine, weirdly.

Sometimes people are curious to know how we do all of it, but ultimately you do it because it’s the only thing that keeps you going.

I find it very difficult to see the boundary between womenswear and menswear. It’s bizarre the ways in which society reacts; they find it difficult to comprehend seeing parts of the body on a man. I think it’s fascinating. I’ve never gone out to do anything controversial, I find it mundane that people think that; there are a lot easier things out there to provoke a reaction.

DD: I think people are interested in the psychology or social aspects of clothing, and I think that’s something that comes through in your work.

J.W. Anderson: There’s recently been this debate about pre-collections, many collections, and when I first thought about it, I thought why? Why is there such an anti-feeling? For me, a collection is a collection whether it is a look book or a show. I feel like if you have balance in life you have to be consumed by your job, because ultimately it will never be a job; it will never be something that you feel you’re working on. You need that on-going dialogue.

I will never see fashion as an art form. I see it as being more mechanical. 

I don’t think of it as being commercial, I think that’s the wrong approach. Sometimes we forget that we live in a time that is economically not what it was, not as frivolous as it was.

I will never see fashion as an art form. I see it as more mechanical. You cannot compare an artist to a designer; I think it’s a very different proposition. Both are commerce now, from what they used to be, but fashion is reduced, art doesn’t necessarily happen that way. It doesn’t get reduced, it exceeds in value. I wouldn’t want it be an artist, but I like the idea that there is a shelf life to it - you have to harness this moment.

DD: Do you think that with the pressure of the collections, to still have an emotional attachment is a struggle in itself?

J.W. Anderson: I think you need struggle. If you don’t have it then you’re not going to produce anything, because you have nothing to fight for. You can never feel like you have too much money, you can never feel like you have too much creativity. You have to feel like you are fighting for something, because the minute you have everything you lose the will; it becomes nothing.

I think that’s what design, in theory, should be about; it should be about contribution. In a weird way, giving. There is something I love about telling the story and not even yourself knowing what is next to come. That’s exciting. But maybe not…