Come to­gether, right now

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - Words by Ian Loh

What do Lon­don’s most ex­pe­ri­en­tial de­signer and Ja­pan’s most pop­u­lar mass re­tailer have in com­mon? Jonathan An­der­son teams up his JW An­der­son la­bel with Uniqlo for one of the most an­tic­i­pated fash­ion col­lab­o­ra­tions.

What do Lon­don’s most ex­pe­ri­en­tial de­signer and Ja­pan’s most pop­u­lar mass re­tailer have in com­mon? The an­swer is far more com­plex than you’d think.

This sea­son, Jonathan An­der­son,

as his name­sake la­bel JW An­der­son, teams up with Uniqlo for one of the most an­tic­i­pated fash­ion col­lab­o­ra­tions.

“we al­ways talk about col­lab­o­ra­tions be­ing a very new phe­nom­e­non, but col­lab­o­ra­tions have been go­ing on since the days of Sal­vador Dali. It is not a new phe­nom­e­non,” says Jonathan An­der­son. “The whole point of a col­lab­o­ra­tion is that you col­lab­o­rate with an in­di­vid­ual or a com­pany or a brand or a prod­uct, and that you want to learn from them and they want to learn from you. If you do some­thing where you don’t want to learn, the col­lab­o­ra­tion never works. And we know which ones worked and which ones didn’t. I’ve been shopping at Uniqlo for years, and it’s been so amaz­ing to meet Mr Tadashi, who started Uniqlo. When you speak to him, you kind of re­alise that, yes, we are two dif­fer­ent brands, but we’re fun­da­men­tally do­ing the same thing. And through that process, you share in­for­ma­tion and I learn from him as much as he learns from me.”

Lon­don-based, 33-year-old Jonathan An­der­son first made his name in the fash­ion in­dus­try in 2008. Since then, he has col­lab­o­rated with dif­fer­ent cre­ative forces across the in­dus­try—from Span­ish pub­lisher Luis Vene­gas and English pho­tog­ra­pher Ian David Baker to rap­per A$AP Rocky. In 2012, he pro­duced a cap­sule col­lec­tion with Top­shop and, in 2013, an­other col­lec­tion with Ver­sus un­der Donatella Ver­sace. That same year, An­der­son was named Cre­ative Di­rec­tor of Span­ish lux­ury brand, Loewe un­der LVMH.

“For me, Loewe is a col­lab­o­ra­tion. I would do any­thing for that brand as much as I’d do any­thing for Uniqlo be­cause you in­vest in it; you put in your time. It’s like to­day, I want to be here, I want to talk to peo­ple, be­cause I be­lieve in this project. It’s some­thing that I hope many peo­ple will en­joy,” An­der­son says, dur­ing the launch of the col­lec­tion at Tate Modern in Lon­don.

The col­lec­tion, which went on sale last month, is com­posed of 33 pieces in­clud­ing coats with re­versible trench coats, sweaters with Ir­ish mil­i­tary de­tails, graphic T-shirts, school boy scarves—all draw­ing references from An­der­son’s own at­tire.

“The col­lec­tion was kind of based a lot on the idea of me. I’m wear­ing the cloth­ing so I want some­thing which is per­sonal. I re­mem­bered see­ing a piece by Henri Gaudier-brzeska, a French sculp­tor who moved to Lon­don over a hun­dred years ago. He lived for a very short pe­riod of time. What I re­ally like is he was able to do a sin­gu­lar line to create an emo­tion; for me, it was very Ja­panese, this idea of line draw­ing that’s very pure and emo­tional. I saw these two draw­ings and I thought, for me, he is one of my favourite sculp­tors and il­lus­tra­tors, and it’d be nice to do some­thing which is very per­sonal to me,” An­der­son ex­plains of the graphic on the T-shirt that he is wear­ing from the col­lec­tion.

De­spite An­der­son’s ever-gen­der bend­ing stance on run­way fash­ion—in the past, he’s put guys in skirts and tiny crop tops—his per­sonal wardrobe is sur­pris­ingly sim­ple: a sweater, a T-shirt, jeans and a pair of plain train­ers.

In­stead of div­ing into the avant-garde, the de­signer em­braces the prac­ti­cal. At his re­cent Spring 2018 menswear show in Florence, An­der­son pre­sented wear­able cot­ton chi­nos, and ba­sic jeans paired with heart­print graphic tees and sweaters—all echo­ing the highly-wear­able pieces from the Uniqlo col­lec­tion.

“I ac­tu­ally think—and maybe this might sound weird—nor­mal­ity is nearly the new avant-garde. When I look at fash­ion to­day, it’s be­come so con­flated that I think nor­mal­ity is nearly more scary than crazi­ness,” he ob­serves.

“We are en­ter­ing a very in­ter­est­ing mo­ment where there are no bound­aries. How great is that? We should kind of just em­brace that part. I don’t care what any­one is wear­ing as long as they are happy wear­ing it. That’s my biggest thing. It has been my phi­los­o­phy from the very be­gin­ning. For me, the white shirt is the same for both men and women, it’s just sized dif­fer­ently.”

Yes, the gen­der­less ap­proach. Many pieces from the col­lec­tion carry the same de­signs for both men

“Ev­ery­thing I do, I ap­proach it in ex­actly the same way. I don’t see any dif­fer­ence. For me, if you give me a piece of pa­per, I’ll de­sign any­thing you want.”

and women. For in­stance, the plaid puffer jack­ets—an item An­der­son was very in­sis­tent on—as he has tried to de­velop them for his own la­bel many times but failed. And with Uniqlo’s tech­nol­ogy, he has fi­nally been able to “make it right”. But aside from the more tech­ni­cal as­pect of things, An­der­son’s de­sign process has been seem­ingly sim­i­lar.

“Ev­ery­thing I do, I ap­proach it in ex­actly the same way. I don’t see any dif­fer­ence. For me, if you give me a piece of pa­per, I’ll de­sign any­thing you want. I feel like the same en­ergy goes into this like that of a mu­seum show; it’s just about putting ideas out,” An­der­son con­tin­ues, “It’s com­part­men­tal­i­sa­tion. If I find a cre­ative process re­strict­ing, I don’t do it. I like to col­lect a lot of im­agery and tex­tiles; I watch films too. The col­lec­tion is like ‘a day in the life of’. I work very quickly on things. It’s a very spon­ta­neous, ran­dom act, and there is no for­mula to it. Some­times, it can come from a very small thing, and some­times, it can come from 500 things.”

Upon closer in­spec­tion, you’ll find that the clothes cer­tainly draw references from a lot of small things (but per­haps fewer than 500), and are a mish­mash of Bri­tish her­itage and Ja­panese cul­ture.

“I’ve been ob­sessed with Ja­panese cul­ture since I was a child. My grand­fa­ther was a tex­tile de­signer who ran a tex­tile com­pany in Ire­land. One of the first things I re­mem­ber see­ing is a book on Hoku­sai and I’ve al­ways been ob­sessed by that: the idea of print-mak­ing, moder­nity and re­pro­duc­tion,” An­der­son re­calls.

“When you look at the his­tory of Ja­pan in terms of moder­nity, even ar­chi­tec­ture, it pre­dates any moder­nity that was hap­pen­ing in the West­ern world. I am also ob­sessed with ce­ram­ics. I love early Ja­panese ce­ram­ics and how they are passed on gen­er­a­tionally. An­other thing that I find very in­ter­est­ing is Zen,” he con­tin­ues. “I think all these things are built into a cul­ture, and the West­ern world learnt a lot from it. In a weird way, this is what’s nice about work­ing with Uniqlo: the meet­ing of two per­spec­tives—bri­tish and Ja­panese cul­ture— be­cause there is a huge his­tory in there. Ul­ti­mately, it is about the idea of sim­pli­fy­ing.”

Although An­der­son iden­ti­fies him­self as Ir­ish, a sense of Bri­tish­ness was very much on his mind when he de­vel­oped the col­lec­tion. Re­flect­ing on the UK’S Brexit ref­er­en­dum, he shares his thoughts on the im­age of Bri­tish men to­day. “I don’t think we’ve changed be­cause of Brexit. What I think is im­por­tant in terms of Bri­tish de­sign is a kind of cir­cu­lar thing. It keeps loop­ing it­self. For me, when I think of a Bri­tish icon, I think of a fish­er­man. It sym­bol­ises what the coun­try is about, and it sym­bol­ises the idea of cloth­ing that is tough, and not fluid. There is harsh­ness to it be­cause of the weather.

“I think what is so in­ter­est­ing is that, in Britain, a lot of very ma­jor mo­ments in style have come out of youth cul­tural move­ments like punk or dandy. When you are young, you want to be old; when you are old, you want to be young. I thought it’s im­por­tant that you get to find some­thing in there no matter what age you are,” An­der­son says, not­ing the broad de­mo­graphic of Uniqlo.

With a mass re­tailer like Uniqlo, An­der­son’s de­signs are now dis­persed all around the world. But in terms of gar­ments, the de­signer set only one bar for both teams and him­self.

“I want to know what these gar­ments will look like in 20 years. I hope one day, in 20 years’ time, I’ll see some­one in the street in them, or I’ll find a piece when I go vin­tage shopping. That’d be the dream.”

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