JW Anderson and his creative showroom choices

The endlessly original designer JW Anderson talks to Tamsin Blanchard about the places he finds creatively refreshing, beginning with the gallery where he presented his latest show. Photographs by Harry Mitchell

The last time I interviewed Jonathan Anderson, four years ago, he was working from a small studio in Shacklewell Lane in Dalston, east London. He had a team of only four, and his autumn/winter 2011 womenswear collection, with its neon-coloured paisleys and its strange, hairy shoes, had been greeted with rave reviews.

I met him at the flat that he was in the process of moving into or out of (I wasn’t quite sure) above a computer-game shop on Kingsland High Street. The room was bare apart from two chairs that looked as if they had been rescued from skips, and sheets of A4 photocopies and books that were the  references for the new collection he was working on.

Back in those days he was working 24/7, not stop-ping even on Christmas Day. He was turning out collections of both womenswear and menswear (which is what he started with), and was a consult-ant for the British basics company Sunspel.

Four years is not long, but in fashion it is an eternity. Designers are feted and fail within shorter time spans. But Anderson has been busy. In September 2012 he collaborated with Topshop to make a shop within a shop, selling everything from kilts to loafers, from bat-patterned jumpers (‘I’ve never seen anything sell so fast’) to pencils and notebooks. It was one of Topshop’s most successful collaborations to date (there was a second collection the following season).

Then, in September 2013, Anderson was appointed the creative director of the luxury-goods house Loewe, the Hermès of Spain, which is owned by LVMH, which in turn invested in his own company. He now divides his time between his London HQ (which has been upscaled to an entire three-storey industrial building not far from his old one) and the Loewe design studio in Paris (on his request, it was relocated from Madrid).

He produces 10 collections a year, including his own increasingly important collections for pre-fall and resort. While the mega brands Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Gucci flew their guests to far-flung destinations including Seoul, Palm Springs and New York for their resort shows, Anderson organised an away day closer to home: he took a small group of fashion editors and buyers to Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. But the location was key to giving a sense of atmosphere to the collection.

Kettle’s Yard was once the home of Jim Ede and his wife, Helen. Ede was a curator at the Tate Gallery in London and a great friend of Ben and Winifred Nicholson. He was a man with an incredible eye and an uncompromising vision, but by all accounts was a nightmare to live with. Everything had to be in its place at all times. It was not only the painting that mattered to him, but the way the painting was framed and hung, how it was positioned within a room, the furniture it was with, the way the light and the shadows fell on it.

Читайте также:  СТЭМИ лучше всех дебютировали на туриаде учебных заведений Хакасии

It is not surprising, then, that his home (which was bequeathed to the University of Cambridge in 1966 with the proviso that nothing could be moved from its original position) should appeal so much to Anderson, a designer with a very singular eye and an astonishingly clear vision. Two weeks after his presentation, Kettle’s Yard was closed for a two-year period of renovation.

Speaking of how his life has changed in the four years since we last met, Anderson tells me, ‘My life is very different from what it was. I hope I haven’t changed; I hope I’ve become a lot more focused than I was. When you deal with two brands, that’s 10 collections a year plus leather goods plus sunglasses plus perfumes and campaigns. It is a very intense process, and you have to reconsider your life a bit.

‘I soak up everything and I can be very obsessive about things and then completely reject them. So it is sometimes quite difficult because even in my personal life I want, want, want something, then I get it and then when I’ve got it, I’m over it. I will always reject something in the end. My biggest challenge is to not do that.’

Anderson has been very smart at carving out a niche for himself. There are now 40 people in his team including his first CEO, Simon Whitehouse. ‘It’s really enjoyable. I’m in a very lucky position having LVMH to help me and invest in part of my company,’ he says.

While he has well and truly found his place in the fashion world, he is far from complacent. ‘The minute you are comfortable where you are at you need to move, you need to find another search engine. I don’t want the brand to be narrowed into one direction. I think it’s important that we are always on our toes with JW Anderson and Loewe. Both need to react to what’s happening out there. That’s how youth culture works – it’s moving so fast. It’s the same reality, the goalposts just get bigger. “You’re never there” is my biggest mantra.’

The most striking change from four years ago is that Anderson now has time off. It is timetabled into his schedule (a year in advance). And while he is constantly processing the stuff he sees around him, it means he is enjoying spending time at home as well as rootling around in bookshops and returning to the galleries that inspire him.

I first discovered Kettle’s Yard many years ago. I became really into modern British art – people like henri gaudier-Brzeska and Ben nicholson.i’ve been many times. as an environment it has been an influence on me. it was nice to show things out of their usual context. pre-collections have become so important, it’s how to tackle them. i find it difficult to produce clothes for the sake of it so there needs to be some kind of context. The boots were such an object in the space. It was a very interesting marriage of things Ii think what is so incredible is that the overall space is an art piece. It’s about one man’s vision because we do that anyway in life – we attract things into some sort of persona around us. as a designer you have to live in some kind of odd fantasy.

Читайте также:  В Твери открывается выставка «Дизайнеры рисуют»

A Way of Life [a guide to the house, which anderson gave his guests as a parting gift] is such a beautiful book. After I went up recently I ecame obsessed with the shadows in my house. I would love to knock a wall down so you have light coming in from one side to the other. You learn something from a book like this – it makes you look at life. It’s all about value. that’s what I love about Kettle’s Yard: it’s about the pebble which is free; the feather which is free. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I think we are obsessed with this idea of perfect lives. sometimes it’s about the broken plate. When i went to Shanghai recently I found a plate for a pound, 17th century, broken in four but it had been nailed together with rivets. I loved that.

I’m obsessed by 20th-century British art. I go to Wakefield whenever I can. I have a [Ben] Nicholson and a [Keith] Vaughan. I’m also a big ceramics collector – the market is a lot easier to enter into (though not as easy as it used to be) – potters like Lucie Rie, Hans Coper and John Ward.

We have this show space in central London that we always use. We use the same benches we’ve always used and we change elements. For AW15 we made everything very, very narrow so you were kind of forced into the character. The carpet [carpet tiles with a graphic 1980s geometric print] was this idea of office life. I liked the way that where you were sitting you were not allowed to take in the entire look [because you were so close up]. The look as an entirety I always see as the final image, which is what the photographer takes from the end of the catwalk. So I liked the idea that you have 500 people in the room with 500 phones each taking a completely different message from it. I liked this approach – the excitement you have when clothes are whipping past you and then you start to puzzle everything together, then you see it on Instagram, Facebook and style.com. Every piece has something to say.

I don’t think people should wear a full look of what we do. You need to extract it. The minute you see people in entire looks of a brand, to me it looks like costume. I see myself as a creative director, not a designer, so the critique for me is as a brand not an individual and I think that has helped me to detach myself [from the show reviews] because it is very personal. Ten times a year you are getting critiques, willingly. It’s a very odd process, and if you were to consume everything that is written it would send you mental. sometimes think it’s good that people don’t get it. It shouldn’t make sense now.

I am very sociable. I’m very open to sharing, and I do instagram myself because I feel if someone is going to buy something from me they need to know what I’m about – the good parts and the bad parts. i found out only recently that there were cherries in my garden. thousands of them! the whole lawn was covered in red and I hadn’t even looked outside to notice. I filled about 12 bowls with these cherries. it’s not that picturesque – just some random tree growing in my garden.

Читайте также:  Студия дизайна интерьеров ЛКД - Дизайн Интерьера Квартир Казань, ремонт под ключ, отделка помещений, индивидуальные проекты

I live in Stoke Newington. I don’t want to live in Mayfair – it’s not the zeitgeist around me. When I came to London [in the mid-2000s] I moved to Dalston, and you build your world from there. Working so much you actually start valuing your home space more because sometimes it’s the thing that you have the most control over. My house is my major escape; sometimes it’s like a giant mood board where you hoard and collect everything. i moved in two years ago and still haven’t renovated it, so it’s kind of a non-going-forward work in progress, but I think that will be my next project. I’m just trying to get all my other projects locked down before I work on my own.

My grandfather gave me a book on butterflies I would never part with. It has the tears, the rips, the smell. If I could make a candle that smelled of old books, I would. There’s nothing more romantic than a library. I need to be surrounded by old books. I really love the library at Chatsworth House [pictured, right]. I love that there are sofas and it’s darkly lit, with walls and walls of books. Near the National Portrait Gallery is a row of bookshops on a little street. I walked past a window and saw a Barbara Hepworth catalogue, and I ended up seeing 20 other things you’ve never even heard of. I like that process, whereas the internet allows you to see only what your brain has told it to. I’ve found some incredible books over the years. I bought a collection that belonged to Vanessa Bell for £100, and inside was a book about Matisse annotated by Clive Bell. There’s Vanessa Bell [writing] to Leonard Woolf and Clive Bell; every Christmas there’s Happy Christmas from Duncan Grant. As objects they are incredible. I’ve put one up for sale on the website.

When you are obsessed by something, you will starve for a month to have it. I have done that many a time. I recently did it with the Kelmscott Chaucer. Before William Morris made the book, which is ridiculously expensive to buy – like museum kind of prices – they did two pilot pages, to promote the idea of the book. A dealer I go to had one of these single pages. It’s one of my favourite pieces of typography. [Morris] was an incredibly creative person and in typography in many ways it symbolised the perfect page.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk