What it Feels Like For A Boy (In A Dress): J.W. Anderson Fall/Winter 2013 Menswear
By Daniel Tehrani
Sending men down the runway in stiff minidresses isn't the most commercial of ideas but Jonathan Anderson, designer at the helm of J.W. Anderson has other things on his mind with his latest collection. To be specific, gender equality and a move to salvage menswear from the boredom he finds it languishes in. J.W. Anderson, the new it Brit designer who will soon debut a capsule collection for Verace's Versus label, is no stranger to gender blending.
In fact, it's part of the recognizable branding he's crafted since the birth of his label in 2007. "There's something that has gone stale for a while in men's, and I think you have to blow it up -- then you have a look," he told Style.Com right off.
The inspiration for his collection, titled Mathematics of Love, was the "examination of bourgeois kinkyness and boudoir perversity" -- the result, men in strapless camel bustiers, frilled bloomer-shorts, doctors' gowns complete with what looks like dishwashing gloves, a powder blue robe and kinky leather pleated dresses. Wearable? Not quite. Commercial? Definitely not, but it is certainly conceptual.
With designers like Comme des Garcons, Maison Martin Margiela, and Alexander McQueen, cerebral, thought-provoking and avante-garde shows are common fair at the women's collections, but for years menswear has been all about a "normal" uniform of suits and accessories that would sell.
Uninterested in such staid homogeneity, Anderson would much rather blur the line between the genders, making one take notice of how little room for self-expression and creativity there is in "masculine" fashion, and indeed in expectation's of "masculine" life. Since the birth of modern fashion, borrowing from menswear has been a staple of womenswear; Coco Chanel's use of tweed, Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smoking tuxedos for women. Even today, designers primarily engaged in menswear transition into designing dresses with the greatest of ease - think of Hedi Slimane, creator of the skinny suit at Dior Homme, who just took the reigns at Saint Laurent.
While it's chic for women to wear blazers and oxfords, a man wearing a dress and heels is "drag", "cross-dressing." It brings to mind the lyrics of Madonna's 2000 song What It Feels Like For a Girl, which samples from the 1993 movie The Cement Garden -- "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots 'cause it's ok to be a boy but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, 'cause you think that being a girl is degrading."
Style.Com writer Jo Ann-Furniss says "write off Anderson as a mere provocateur at your peril; his agenda is more complex than that. The effeminacy of this collection—a kind of put-together sixties jolie madame made into a twisted jolie monsieur; think Séverine in Belle de Jour crossed with some of her kinky fantasy coachmen—is intended to reconfigure both menswear and womenswear, and to give a kick up the arse to the stale state of much of men's fashion at the moment."
In fact, Anderson is a part of a bigger movement to bring originality into the men's dress-code. No stranger to provocative social commentary, Jean Paul Gaultier paired corseted men and tuxedo draped women on the runway of his latest haute couture collection, while Thom Browne has been consistently injecting his menswear collections with a spectacular oddness that borders on art.
With a growing number of contemporaries such as these, one hopes that Anderson's social revolution steps off the cat-walk into daily life -- if not in the way the world dresses, then hopefully in the way it views sexuality and gender.