Cre­at­ing a collection for Uniqlo was a labour of love for de­signer Jonathan An­der­son, says Eva Wise­man

The Observer Magazine - - STYLE -

There is an un­nerv­ing busy-ness to Jonathan An­der­son: his daily sched­ule planned six months in ad­vance, the small moun­tain of iPhones be­side his cof­fee and the way his con­ver­sa­tion slips from busi­ness ethics to the his­tory of Ja­panese ce­ram­ics in the same sen­tence. But this is how the 32-yearold fash­ion de­signer, who over­sees his own la­bel as well as the Span­ish lux­ury brand Loewe, thrives: leap­ing from one idea to the next – from Paris to Lon­don to Madrid, to his coun­try re­treat near Nor­folk. He spends a lot of time mid-air. You get the sense he would re­ally, re­ally like a cig­a­rette.

He is at Tate Mod­ern to­day, caf­feinated and well-lit in this small room up near the roof. Ear­lier, as a Uniqlo exec pre­sented An­der­son’s first collection for the brand, the de­signer stood slightly hid­den in a crowd, and blushed to be de­scribed as “an artist”.

An­der­son, who last year put on an ex­hi­bi­tion of fash­ion, art and sculp­ture at the Hep­worth Wake­field, doesn’t even call him­self a de­signer. What he then? A rare pause. “What I think I ul­ti­mately do,” he says, tak­ing a huge sip from his tiny cof­fee, “is cu­rate. I’m cu­rat­ing peo­ple, cu­rat­ing cam­paigns, cu­rat­ing stores, cu­rat­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions. It is about tak­ing all th­ese com­po­nents and ar­rang­ing them in a way that makes sense. It’s like do­ing brain zen: you have to ar­range objects into a cer­tain con­fig­u­ra­tion that feels… right.” He’s as no­to­ri­ous for his near-ob­ses­sional col­lect­ing of art and craft as he is for the “chal­leng­ing” (he called them “ugly”) gen­der-un­spe­cific clothes he first showed in 2008, in­clud­ing the 2013 bustiers for men, worn with ruf­fle-topped rid­ing boots on hairy legs. But lis­ten­ing to him talk, even in this PR-ed en­vi­ron­ment, even about things as mun­dane as sock de­sign, it be­comes clear that both are part of some larger vi­sion, some grand project of liv­ing, cre­ated through care­ful jux­ta­po­si­tion of teapot, or sleeve, or an­tique nutcracker. “I do have a com­pul­sion about own­ing cer­tain things,” he says, “be­cause I have to look at it to ac­tu­ally work out why, or how.” Like what? What things? “I’m ob­sessed by da­mask nap­kins at the mo­ment from the 14th, 15th, and 16th cen­tury in Great Bri­tain and Ire­land.” His grand­fa­ther worked for a tex­tile com­pany in North­ern Ire­land that spe­cialised in cam­ou­flage and at home his grand­mother would turn the cam­ou­flage scraps into or­nate bed­spreads. “So I think there’s al­ways been this ob­ses­sion with fab­ric. There is some­thing that is so mag­i­cal about it be­cause it lasts for ever.”

His 33-piece collection for Uniqlo is made up of ca­ble knits and High­land tar­tans, with a few rugby stripes, too (a nod, per­haps, to his brother and dad, both for­mer pro­fes­sional play­ers). There are no feath­ers, there’s no chain­mail, in fact none of the kinky de­tails he made his name with. In­stead there are clothes that will re­main wear­able long after the au­tumn ends.

“If you de­sign some­thing, it is the per­son who wears it who will make the cloth­ing,” says An­der­son, who claims

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