Monday 23 April 2018

Paul Galvin: Boy meets girl

JW Anderson aw 2011
JW Anderson aw 2011
JW Anderson

Derryman JW Anderson is wooing fashion editors the world over with his androgynous, irreverent design aesthetic. Paul Galvin tries on the Irish designer's boots for size.

Johnny Borrell warned everybody not to go back to Dalston. So, of course, that's exactly what JW Anderson did. And Simone Rocha. And Celestine Cooney. The bloody Oirish revolutionaries listen to no one. Especially Anderson.

The young Derryman is the name on every fashion editor's lips these days, and his no-holds-barred approach to design from his HQ in Dalston is why. Doing things he shouldn't be doing. Using fabrics he shouldn't use and working textures he shouldn't work.

His irreverent take on fashion reminds me of Riccardo Tisci's approach at Givenchy. A little dark and a little twisted, a little confused. It shouldn't work, but it does.

What do I mean? Anderson's aesthetic borrows from menswear and womenswear, so appeals to both. He works with both in mind. His first show at London Fashion Week was a menswear collection that women went wild for.

His inspiration at the time came from his muse Manuela Pavesi, the fashion coordinator at Prada who spotted his potential as a visual merchandiser in Brown Thomas and brought him to London.

He recalled seeing her in an outfit at their first meeting that was a mish-mash of fabrics and textures, including men's silk pyjamas teamed with a leather jacket, that had no business working together but did.

Last week at his third showing at LFW, he again made headlines and stole shows with silk tracksuit legs teamed with boots and leather jackets. It's his blind eye for convention that is really setting him apart.

The show also featured a cardigan transformed into a dress with the sleeves trailing as tails, a man's cotton shirt transformed into a fitted jacket with leather patches and an overall aesthetic that was edgy and new.

Edgy and new is just what fashion needs. What magazines need. Anna Wintour has sought him out and offered him a very considerable hand. Her interest is a seal of approval. That seal of approval for the London College of Fashion graduate means exclusive stockists globally take a keen interest: Harrods, Browns and Liberty in London stock his work.

The iconic Collette store in Paris has taken him on, as has a New York store I've been visiting over the past two years, Opening Ceremony, a cult store with retail units in Soho and on Broadway. A visit to the Broadway outlet in the basement of the Ace Hotel next time you are in New York is recommended.

OC bases its vision on the Olympic mission statement that merges sports, business and global participation and applies it to fashion.

The owners, Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, travel the world and take on fashions from a different country each year.

Though an exclusive store, they take an inclusive approach towards stocking based on four perspectives: that of established designers (Proenza Schouler and Rodarte among them); emerging designers such as Anderson; vintage pieces, and random finds from stalls and open-air markets.

It's a refreshing approach to retailing and one that sets them apart as innovative and creative, along with clever collaborations with people such as Chloë Sevigny. She's about to release a collection of her favourite men's pieces with the store.

So Anderson's rise has been sharp and steady. For men, it's all about his boots. The monochrome tailored trousers and short bolero-style jackets may fly over our heads, but boots we can do.

The overall Anderson aesthetic is hard to define, but his boots are tough, rugged and suited to the Irish man's sense of style; something like the outdoor hiking boots you see in Patagonia or Camper.

You can also see Anderson's aesthetic in his work for Sunspel, the underwear and T-shirt manufacturers -- they're simple basics that are far removed from his catwalk extravagance and a sign of a young design mind with his finger on the pulse.

So meet Jonathan William Anderson. Some will already know him, some won't.

An Irish designer with little regard for the convention of how things should be done, a pioneer in his field and unafraid to face new challenges.

No surprise really. Black cat, black kitten.

His dad? Willie Anderson, former Irish rugby captain and the only Irishman to take on the haka.

JW Anderson clothes available online from sites such as and and from leading stores in London. Price conversion correct

at time of going to press

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