Jonathan Anderson

Interview by Noah Wunsch / Photography by Tom Allen

Hobo #14 – New York, March 2012. Irish fashion designer, Jonathan Anderson, is creating something with his fashion line JW Anderson that hasn’t been done in years: he’s surprising people. The ideologies that have followed through his past-seasons collections have been as amorphous as the clothing, making it difficult to label him part of the grunge movement, or angle lusters, the black fadsters or the neon heads. There is no distinct vision. No linear thought throughout the collected collections. His sole consistency is his attention to detail, and in where the story lies in each piece, and how it comes together to create a successful menswear or women’s wear line. He only hopes his audience can get the same satisfaction in wearing his clothes, that he gets in the nude.

Noah Wunsch. — You’ve achieved a level of success in both your menswear and women’s wear collections, how does the process in creating both collections differ?
Jonathan Anderson. — Men will always be an experimental process for me. It’s always about how far can you push something? Recently the fashion industry has become so commercialized. It feels like: how fast can we get it in the shop? I think some people want to break with that. They want to follow a designer on a journey that isn’t “Oh we just turned $40 million last year.” The romance seems like it’s gone. “Oh we do jeans and t-shirts, a back line and a line of shoes.” The collections are great, but it loses the roughness.

— In what way do you keep your line “rough”?
— We’re just keeping it small and growing small. We’re not like Juicy, or factories that produce that aesthetic. I’m involved in every aspect of the process. Everything moves too fast now. We want success stories now. We want businesses to be little Calvin Klein’s now. Maybe it’s an American thing, that zeitgeist that we have to keep going.

— There’s this definite need for fame in the present generation. It’s leading to fifteen minutes, instead of lasting legacies.
— I think that’s what people want though. They want to get dumber. People are too afraid to get things wrong. I love getting things wrong. There’s nothing better than a slightly mixed review. Or confusing people! If a collection is expected then people don’t care. Keep people on their toes and it’s a bit more progressive. It’s on them to decide whether it’s actually interesting.

— Your vision really shifts from between collections. What’s the creative process going from a line that embraces one storyline, and then starting from square one?
— I love dropping things. Starting all over again with a fresh idea. A new story. It can come from anything. Last season was inspired by vinyl domestic housewives going crazy.

— I got sort of a crazy go-go vibe from the men’s side.
— Menswear was kind of: how disgusting and ugly can we make it. In the women’s it’s about women biting their lip, going a little crazy. Representing the normal woman. The fragility of women. It was kind of a two part chapter, about this woman getting progressively worse. So many designers have this idea of this overly perfect woman, and is she real? Because I don’t know any women like that. I think it was nice to show women flat lined. Really unpredictable. That’s what I really enjoyed about this collection.

— Where are you going with the next one?
— Hopefully something white. Something very translucent white. But who knows, maybe by the end of it, it’ll be furry. For me it’s never done until it’s done. I’ve had collections change a week before the show.

— Your 2010 collection was inspired by an ex-boyfriend, right?
— That was a mistake. I don’t know why I did that collection. I was so angry at everything and I thought fashion was a good medium to express that in, and it’s not. Fashion will never be an art form, which is a great wake up call.

— That’s a heavy statement, what do you think has gutted the artistic side of fashion?
— I don’t even think art can be art any more. It’s all commerce. There’s not that aspect of the starving artist. I have major issues with it at the moment, and the world in general. I feel like we live in this very different place, from even ten years ago. There was still that element of the new. Now it’s just so fast and we’ve seen it all before. The people who really made the industry are getting older and the next generation doesn’t have enough passion. It’s very cynical, it’s very blah culture. We need to take time to think, we all rush into our opinions, which I think is a huge problem.

— Why even create anything then? Is it just for financial gain at this point?
— I’ve never done this for money. For me, it’s about story telling. If I could be a writer I would do that, but I can’t. It’s not a strength of mine, whereas visual communication is. I can tell a story six times a year through different collections. That’s what keeps me going, being able to take loads of information and tell a story with it. I love the idea of taking people on the journey. There’s nothing better than having people see you progress. If it goes too fast, they miss the chapters and quickly skim through it. People want something real. They don’t want a kind of macrobiotic designer. They want people who are raw and make mistakes. Who say what they think. That’s new now. Ultimately it’s about clothing and portraying information. People need to get off their pedestal. I just want people to recognize the clothing and the moments. That’s why the brand is JW Anderson and not Jonathan Anderson. It’s not about me. It’s a separate entity.

— Everyone has one story that they have as a backup when they’re asked to tell one. Tell me your bar story.
— I’ll tell you a methodical one and a dirty one. I have a story my dad used to tell me: There were these two guys who go out into the forest. There are two lines of trees and the two men have axes and they cut the trees, each on the other side. It comes for lunch and they both have cut the same amount of trees. One man says to the other, “I’m going to have something to eat, do you want something?” And the other says, “No I’m going to work to get all of these done.” So he carries on, while the other eats his lunch. He finishes lunch and starts back up. It comes to the end of the day, and the eater asks the worker how many he cut and the worker says, “45.” The eater says, “I cut 55.” The worker says, “How? You had lunch? How did you end up doing more?” The eater says, “I sharpened the axe while eating.” I think it’s very important to recognize that resting means sharpening your tools. If you’re not sharp, you don’t exist.

— You’re one for one so far. Give me your dirty story!
— My friends and I were at this nightclub and this rather well known British model walks into the room. She was wearing a Burberry mac. She takes it off in front of all these people and screams out, “Will someone just fuck me in the ass?!” [laughs]

— Do you ever have those days where you wanna walk into a place and scream that out?
— Here’s my thing: I love clothing, but there’s nothing better than being completely naked. I love taking all my clothes off and lying around. I love brands that evoke undercurrents of sexual desire. I think that’s what’s great about Calvin Klein. His ads force you into wanting to have serious amounts of sex. I think that’s really interesting. There’s nothing more modern than advertising to evoke brutal sexual desire. I’m so fascinated by the billboards here. I think it’s the most modern form of art. The patchwork of culture.

— What was that historical moment in fashion for you?
— I think if I knew, then it would never make sense. I hope some people buy something of ours and they love it to bits. It’s their thing. It doesn’t have to even be my clothing, it can be an image we provided them. I get that from other brands. There’s nothing better than when you’re surprised. That’s the most important part. You’ll never get that from jeans and t-shirts. Because that’s a reality. It makes a man look hot, but trying to make a man look abstract is something different. If I can give a button detail that blows people away, great. If I can give more than that, fantastic. I leave it up to the gods.