Is anyone experiencing more of a creative jolt than Jonathan Anderson? While everyone zigged to master the fashion-show video in the early days of the pandemic, the Loewe and JW Anderson designer zagged to master touch and connection, even intimacy. Like a lover or your genius friend you’re excited and a little boastful to know, he mails you things ahead of his shows—file folders of images and artworks, cutouts that fold into record players, clothing that pops out like paper dolls. For his Fall 2021 show, which occurred Wednesday morning, he sent posters like souvenirs from a good museum exhibition, shot by fashion’s resident friendly freak Juergen Teller. Anderson is like a time traveler from the Edwardian era who’s having a blast partying in Ibiza. His clothing makes you smile, and urges the eye to linger. Some have looked at the challenges of the last year and seen a business challenge; Anderson has seen a demand for creativity.
For his Fall 2021 JW Anderson show, he wanted to “[push] a certain bluntness, a stark and conceptual look,” per the show notes, and anchored the collection with a pair of plainly absurd trousers that jutted out at the hips with sweet, Claes Oldenburg-y appeal. In leather and cotton, they look like you could sculpt them in or just let them sag. (I thought of sculptors like Oldenberg or Al Freeman, who will recreate objects in different materials to see how the form takes it. One artist’s sad hamburger, or droopy trouser, is another’s spiffy-power-gallerist happy hamburger, or outfit.) Overall, the pieces felt like templates for fashion, ideas for more complicated garments—the kind of funky, beautiful thing you buy and strangely end up wearing four times a week. You could wear the snuggly tunic dresses, with their chubby cinch belts, over trousers; with no pants and motorcycle boots; over a skirt; over chunky shorts; or with no pants or underwear at home. Same goes with the gender-neutral prairie dress. And the big creature-y chubby tops, with tails and tentacles and curly manes? Well, those are for the budding fashion collector in all of us—a customer segment Anderson seems uniquely aware of as he designs. Rarely do you look at someone’s clothing and think, “There’s a guy who reads a book!” but Anderson consistently pulls it off.
Another bookworm’s brand: the Paris-based, Caribbean-bred duo behind Botter. Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh make clothing that sits between the stealth luxury of their super high-end designer peers, and the flotsam-Etsyam look of a lot of upcycled and conscientious fashion. Their pieces are made from old umbrellas and recycled ocean junk—but they’re elegant. “Old umbrellas” isn’t a joke, either—there’s a traditional Parisian umbrella maker who makes a big display that’s hung over the streets each year, and then just throws the umbrellas out. So Botter and Herrebrugh scooped them up and made anoraks, jackets, and suiting that has a lovely worn, weathered look. They also made suits and necklaces adorned with elaborate Japanese fishing lures and suiting jackets with a scuba suit-inspired keyhole. Also spectacular: knits made with a lace-up neck repurposed from the upper of an actual Nike Flyknit; they had the body made up in a dense, Flyknit-inspired weave lined with wool so it holds its stiff-ish shape but feels soft on the body. Isn’t that a blast? But it’s so subtle. You either have to hang out with rarefied company that knows enough to ask about your quietly sublime anorak—“It’s made from recycled ocean plastic, baby!”—or accept that this is fashion for you and you alone. When I asked the pair about this sense of balance, Herrebrugh said they often “tone each other down” while working, and Botter added that it also comes from the style of their Carribean upbringings. “People think it’s always this colorful thing in the Carribean,” he said. “But it’s always elegant. It’s always balanced with natural tones. It’s a combination of tones—like what makes a painting work.”
When I look at clothes like these, I see the uniform of a young, feeling intelligentsia—a group a little more earnest and sensitive than the denizens of Dimes Square, last seen pushing fashion in a cool and spunky art school brat direction. These are people who like to feel the hand in a garment, but want to think something, too. They don’t get high from sitting around in beige cashmere, nor do they crave the intensity of balling out in an enormous fit that’s really an event unto itself (at least on a daily basis). Think Ella Emhoff, with her bardcore aesthetic. Maybe The Crown stars Emma Corrin and Josh Charles (a face of Loewe). Acolytes of the thoughtful power stylist Ib Kamara. Dev Hynes, Jeremy O. Harris. Anyone Thom Browne dresses; same with Bode. People for whom showing themselves means showing their hearts and minds in equal measure—but too worldly, or maybe just too smart, to remind you of a Wes Anderson film. They prefer weird to quirky.
These are people who want to spend money on clothes but not the clothes that everyone spends their money on—who want things that are smart and sophisticated but aren’t too fashion-y. We’ve now got celebrity playwrights and poets in this country, or at least one of each. There’s a slow fashion enthusiast with a stepparent in the White House! Perhaps the public intellectual is back—but not in the elbow patches of their predecessors. Welcome to the elite new weird.