Jonathan Anderson closed the second day of London Fashion Week on Saturday with a joyously playful SS23 runway show, set among the rolling slot machines and neon lights of the Las Vegas Arcade in Soho.
The dizzying disco lights of the casino, chosen not only because its located to the JW Anderson store but also because it was somewhere, Anderson explained post-show, that he used to come late night drinking as a student, made the perfect backdrop for a collection that explored themes of alternate reality and identity in our screen-addicted age.
“It’s an idea I have been exploring over several collections,” said the Northern Irish designer, who is also creative director of Spanish luxury label Loewe. “Are we falling into the screens? Are we becoming our phones? Is this interesting? Is it art? Is this to do with where we are socially?”
A serious theme delivered, as Anderson so masterfully does, with a healthy dollop of humour. There were dresses with blown up keyboard keys attached and a top made from a pavé of actual recycled keyboard keys. Barbara Sturm’s daughter Charly hit the runway in a one-shouldered mini resembling a plastic bag with a fish swimming inside before Kamala Harris’ daughter Ella Emhoff appeared in an orange tank still attached to its metal clothes hanger.
Emily Ratajkowski joined the party in sparkly baggy trousers, a baggy t-shirt and lime green bulbous sandals along with Romeo Beckham’s ex Mia Regan, wearing a giant crumbled oversized t-shirt dress printed with an image of the earth and made from recycled silk.
Stock images of palm trees, beaches and dolphins were printed on lycra catsuits, playsuits and body suits, representing both screensavers and an idealised version of escape. “I like this idea of the element of search, of individualism and realness in the ownership of clothing,” said Anderson, whose piece de resistance was a giant mirrored orb mini dress that reflected the audience back at them as it passed. “I like this idea of a transient moment in time, a reflection,” he continued. “The idea of the sunset reflecting in the mirror of the dress… and I like this idea that taking the picture is sometimes more important than the picture itself.”
The show closed with a tribute the Queen – a simple oversized black t-shirt that simply read “Her Majesty, Thank you.” As Anderson said earlier this week when he confirmed his show would go ahead despite the circumstances: “Now we must stand together and continue to create the incredible stories that this city is known for.”
We might be living in an alternate universe at the moment, but magic like Anderson’s feels reassuringly real.