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J.W. Anderson, SS16, LCM, Menswear
Backstage at J.W. Anderson SS16Photography Chloé Le Drezen

Why J.W.Anderson x Grindr actually makes a lot of sense

The designer has announced that he will be live streaming his upcoming menswear show on the app, but the news isn’t as strange as you might think

If there was one headline the fashion industry probably wasn’t expecting to go home to last night, it was the news that one of its younger, brighter stars, J.W. Anderson, had made the decision to livestream his upcoming AW16 menswear show on the gay hook-up app Grindr. Like a marketing scheme dreamt up by the Zoolander universe, it almost sounded too weird to be true. But then again, that’s partly the point.

The New York Times broke the news, reporting that “Grindr will be the only place to live-stream the show” and that “users of the app will receive a link and a code to stream the video, which will not actually play in the app itself, but in phone and tablet browsers.” How many people stand to receive this link? “According to the company, it now has one million active users on the platform worldwide every minute.” Let that sink in – Jonathan Anderson’s new show will potentially pass before the eyes of millions of men, accessed by just a few clicks on their phones. For comparison, last season’s menswear show has racked up 5k views in six months on YouTube. It’s a brilliant PR move – and one that by the end of today will likely be reported by every major fashion site, newspaper and LGBT interest publication in the country.

With that kind of reach, you’d think Grindr might have half the industry biting off their hand at the chance to team up, but a partnership with Anderson specifically makes sense for a variety of reasons. Firstly, while he may have grown out from under the label of being a “young designer”, at 31, Anderson is still youthful. His work is actively defining fashion for the current generation – for evidence of his talents, look no further than to the fact he scooped both menswear and womenswear designer of the year awards at the recent BFAs. Sex, also, is never too far away from his vision. As he put it to The NYT, “We’re all humans, so we all have to be somewhat sexually attractive to someone. That’s the name of the game, with clothing.”

“We’re all humans, so we all have to be somewhat sexually attractive to someone. That’s the name of the game, with clothing” – Jonathan Anderson 

It’s certainly been the name of the game with his work. A latent, perverse eroticism and tendency to blur the lines between genders runs throughout his oeuvre, and is particularly evident in his menswear. He’s put boys in peplum shorts and knee high leather boots that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jilly Cooper novel, turned models into sexy secretaries and dressed them in silk halter-neck tops, creating unexpected erogenous zones. Off the runway, he’s collaborated with cult photographer and filmmaker Larry Clark to release a limited edition zine featuring provocatively dressed young men in his clothes, and recently hosted a print sale of work by gay photographer Ian David Baker on his website.

Then there’s his fanbase, and by extension his target consumer – many of whom are gay or bisexual men. The power of the “pink pound” – a term first coined back in the 1980s to describe LGBT spending – is not to be sniffed at. According to Witek Communications, a public relations and marketing company for whom this is their area of expertise, “the combined buying power of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adult population for 2014 was estimated at $884 billion”. Globally, that figure is in the trillions, and that’s certainly not lost on Grindr – or Anderson by extension. “Fashion is “a very big topic of interest for a certain segment of our consumer,” the app’s new VP of Marketing, Landis Smithers told The NYT.

“The stream will be a way for Grindr to add a boost of positivity and innovation to their reputation – one currently arguably defined by late night cruising and chemsex”

Grindr have themselves gained some recent fashion traction – back in December, we reported its signing with PR agency PR Consulting, the fashion and lifestyle group who count heavyweights including Dior, Versace and – no surprises here – J.W.Anderson as clients. The stream will be a way for them to add a boost of positivity and innovation to their reputation – one currently arguably defined by late night cruising and chemsex. They’re tapping into the way that fashion has taken notice of our app-driven affections – last year Calvin Klein debuted a “sexting” campaign which featured steamy IM-style conversations superimposed over models. 

Anderson is a designer whose work is picked apart, season after season. Critics obsess over every intricacy in an attempt to decipher the details, finding meanings in the futuristic ruffle of a sleeve or the letters of a print. Add this to the general sense of impending breakdown that seems to have hung over the last month or two in fashion, sparked by a few high profile designer exits, and you start to think that perhaps what this move demonstrates most of all is Anderson’s sense of humour. Fashion’s self-imploding? Take it to a new market, then.