It was Berlin circa 1980s; a city dirt poor but rich in urban subculture, rave parties, and cheap clothes.
“Bottom line, it’s about party girls having fun,” said Jonathan Anderson, as the last blast of Eighties’ band The Human League faded from the J.W. Anderson show.
Through narrow passages for an audience hot on their smartphones strode the models in shiny plastic-looking boots with a flat flower at the ankle. They were worn with anything from a long coat to a glitzy gilded top and sparking turquoise skirt — a brave stand for glamour in a cheap, rough world before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Except that these clothes weren’t low rent. Backstage, I realized that the shrimp-pink tailored coat was in cashmere; the hefty sweat top with smudgy words ‘Naples’ and ‘Mount Vesuvius’ was created with intricate intarsia knitting; and a colourful sweater had not been paint-splashed on the sidewalk by a raver on acid, but was beautiful, high-end craftsmanship.
How do we feel about fine clothes playing poor? It is something that has been in fashion since the Eighties, with Rei Kawakubo’s ripped clothing and John Galliano’s hobo threads.
But as a follow-on to JW’s start as a cool designer from Northern Ireland, dealing with gender crossover in menswear and using tech fabrics, this meld of rich clothes made poor did not sit so well.
Jonathan has moved to the big league in his artistic direction of Loewe, the Spanish leather goods brand owned by LVMH, where the designer has already made a major impact.
So why not keep his own label not low key, but in a lower price range? It would have been fun to see these Berlin underground clothes with a lot of powerful ideas as they might be worn today by fashion’s global ravers.