Brassieres so teeny-tiny that they would barely fit a pre-teen, and shoulders so puffed up they would do justice to King Henry VIII — for Jonathan Anderson
, fashion is spelt out in capital letters.
Is that a wise or a weird thing?
It is invigorating to see a designer taking a stand for style. And JW had plenty to say, although the collection was not all leg o' mutton sleeves and intergalactic body suits. There were stylish trousers worn with a graphic T-shirt and twin shoulder bags, their straps criss-crossing the body. It was hard to tell whether that was a geometric gesture, a riff on fashion's handbag obsession or a reminder that JW has a day job as designer of the Spanish leather house Loewe.
"It's a women's odyssey, the idea of trying something that looked airtight," said the designer, explaining that he had been watching Public Speaking, Martin Scorsese's documentary about Fran Lebowitz, and asking: "creativity: what does it means today?
"I wanted looks that were uncompromising and to transform shirting to look like leather that in turn looks like rubber — to take fabric and make it airtight.'
Phew! That was a complex explanation for clothes that indeed took no compromises. The collection reminded me of the big fashion statements of the 1980s, not least when I was looking at Keith Haring graffiti-esque squiggles from neck to gathered ankles, although the puff sleeves were white.
It has been a while since a designer was willing to make such a raw statement about sex, as when a laced-up midriff corset was added to a tiny bra, zippers were embedded at the diaphragm or lacy shorts appeared under the hem of a dress.
But Jonathan Anderson's story was also about strength: power women inside their otherworldly uniforms of vast sleeves and full trousers, both gathered at the extremities. Then, unexpectedly, among all these grand gestures would appear a pretty pink dress frilled at the front and hem.
I enjoyed seeing the designer, only 31 years old, push himself to the limits of his imagination - with one proviso: that he does not use his own line as a laboratory of ideas to deliver for Loewe. No designer, however talented, can afford to do that.