J.W. ANDERSON IS WELL ACQUAINTED WITH RISKS AND THE WAYS ABOUT TAKING THEM. IT IS THIS PHILOSOPHY THAT GROUNDS THE DESIGNER TO HIS INTIALS, AN ANCHOR SHAPED LOGO, A LIKELY SYMBOL OF THE BRAND’S MOMENTOUS SUCCESS IN NAVIGATING OUTSIDE THE SAFE ZONE.
It hasn’t been that long since Jonathan Anderson was an unknown name. Just seven years after launching his own label, the designer now splits his time between a second venture as the Creative Director for Spanish luxury label, Loewe. A recent investment by LVMH Moët Hennessy has been a critical step in the designer’s progress, which now has the him working between two cities in tandem - Paris, where he spends two days a week for Loewe and London, home of his Dalston headquarters and eponymous label, J.W. Anderson.
DRAMA TO DESIGN
He grew up in Northern Ireland and left for the U.S. at the age of eleven to go to drama school in Washington, D.C. before making the switch to fashion. It was always the staging and the costumes that he was infatuated with and his first retail gig at Brown Thomas in Dublin affirmed his seasoned taste. After being offered a job at Prada, he decided to make the jump to London and enroll in the Menswear program at the London College of Fashion. Anderson credits his experience at Prada as being the most valuable learning platform, especially given his role as a visual merchandiser alongside the great talent and right-hand woman to Miuccia Prada, Manuela Pavesi. Pavesi became a mentor to Anderson and encouraged him to pursue fashion. For him, she was the epitome of the design vision he wanted to create and he still recognizes her as his ultimate reason for taking the fashion road.
J.W Anderson first launched as a menswear brand in 2008. The collection’s experimental cuts and progressive point of view was an instant hit with the press and public. It wasn’t long before he began experimenting with some patterns from which to sample his first womenswear collection. Part due to lack of funds, part due to an unconventional outlook on garment construction; Anderson led the wave by challenging design and crossing the gender line. For the designer himself, this stance was less to do with provoking fashion norms and more so about reinventing the idea of the wardrobe. The notion of a shared closet interlinked his men’s and women’s collections and established a critical turning point from an industry perspective. Fall 2013 was an especially standout season which brought military felted ruffles in line with his unisex vision. Anderson’s consistent nod to design is all about repositioning the lines of the body. Pockets, for example, are meant to change the way in which the arms are placed. The repositioning of an attitude likewise translates into the high desirability factor that has become part of the J.W. Anderson’s brand identity.
J.W. Anderson’s collection launch hit the press waves furiously. Topshop was the first big caller to approach the designer and the collaboration sold out within hours of hitting the shelves in 2012. 2013 saw another tremendously successful execution and this time the caller was Donatella Versace. She gave Anderson free reign to create a capsule collection for Versus Versace and after a weekend of inspecting the Versus archive piece-by-piece, his own pop-culture affinity infused an influence which satiated the brand’s vigor. His string of successful accolades brought forth a tremendous opportunity in 2014. LVMH Moët Hennessy approached Anderson with a two front proposition: the first was the role as the Creative Director of Spanish luxury brand, Loewe, the second was a minority stake purchase of his namesake brand, an investment which would catapult J.W. Anderson to the next level.
NEXT LEVEL LAUNCH
Innovation is no doubt the backbone of J.W. Anderson’s collections, but it is the designer’s compatibility with the business side that keeps his brand gaining fast and steady momentum. “Advanced contemporary”, is the niche that was carved out by the designer and his advisors. The positioning was a strategic move based on entering the American market with a new reaching placement between fashion and contemporary. Risk is another pivotal element that the designer does not veer away from. Every season he and his team are in constant pursuit of new ways to communicate with the customer and Anderson’s commercial awareness places this vision in line with the idea of creating a cult following.
STEPPING UP RISKY
Creating a J.W. Anderson world is precisely what the newly erected glass sign on the door of his East London studio stands for. The substantial recent investment into his brand has allotted him the resources to hunt down a historical relic in which to house his evolving business. Relocating his studio into a former clothing factory from 1902, each in-house division of his team operates on a separate floor, granting plenty of room to breathe. Anderson says his most productive time is the first five hours of the day, which is when he does his design work on a body in three dimensions. The brand’s newly worked development has granted some interesting shifts to his product evolution, employing a garment technologist has been one milestone. Design-wise, keeping a sense of naivety involved remains an important part of J.W. Anderson’s aesthetic and in the words of the designer; it is about making a garment that feels like something else. Anderson keeps the brand vision up front at all time and just like his idea of a jacket cut like a T-shirt, it is his full belief that without a risk, there is no brand - the driving thought behind the his ever-evolving rise.
J.W. Anderson swept the scene with a line of menswear that developed into women’s. The brand has been known for its intermixed cuts ever since. His design trademark is all about creating forms that reinterprets the look and feel of another garment.
Risk is at the core of the designer’s philosophy and he adamantly pursues the value in developing a solid business model. His introduction of the mixed wardrobe has steadily been challenging the meaning of luxury through his niche brand position, “advanced contemporary”.
The British Fashion Awards recognized J.W. Anderson as an emerging ready to wear talent for 2012. He won “The New Establishment Award in 2013.
Jonathan Anderson takes the prize for both men’s and womenswear designer of the year at the British Fashion Awards 2015. The BFA also granted him the menswear designer of the year award in 2014.
The designer graduates from the London College of Fashion while studying menswear, works as a visual merchandiser at Prada.
Pattern experimentation leads the designer to foray into womenswear. A capsule collection is produced and the pieces take off. In the same year he is granted sponsorship by the British Fashion Council and presents his first runway show at London Fashion Week.
J.W. Anderson produces a collection with Topshop which sells out within hours of the launch. The success of the collaboration prompts a second J.W. Anderson x Topshop collection in the following year.
He is approached by Donatella Versace to design a capsule collection for Versus Versace. Later that year, LVMH Moët Hennessy buys a minority stake in J.W. Anderson and names the designer Creative Director of Madrid based Spanish Luxury brand, Loewe.
Slipping in an unexpected collaboration, Diet Coke and J.W. Anderson team up in a bottle redesign. He lends the patterns from his fall/winter 2015 collection as well as two T-shirts and a notebook for Diet Coke’s “Regret Nothing” campaign. He scoops up a double acclaim as Menswear and Womenswear Designer of the Year Award at the British Fashion Awards.
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