J.W. Anderson: Grand Tour meets American tourism in Villa La Pietra
The Ulster-born designer placed himself on one T-Shirt, wearing a corporal's helmet and clutching a coffee mug with the title, "Militant Men Wear J.W. Anderson."
It was all staged in the stunningly beautiful Villa La Pietra, home of Sir Harold Acton, the legendarily urbane English gent and author of "Memoirs of an Aesthete."
Models marched along a grass avenue amidst scores of statues – satyrs, graces and even a giant Hercules wielding a bludgeon.
"Florence is one of the most sexual cities there is. Everywhere you go there is nudity!" smiled the designer post-show.
Anderson also tapped into his Irish roots with Aran sweaters bearing his signature JWA anchor logo, since, apparently, it's "my parents' coat of arms."
He played on a whole slew of ideas, covering trench coats, rocker bomber jackets, beach shorts and striped shirts with miniature hearts. Anderson also reined in his asymmetrical cutting and the collection was decidedly more commercial.
His best ideas were often the most way out; like loose, rolled up jeans or jute totes covered in packaging and advertising motifs. One, in Coca Cola lettering, read "Wear J. W. Anderson Florence." Several excellent wool sweaters mimicked the ceramic tile memorabilia tourists take back from Florence. While denim jackets were emblazoned with looks from the playing cards which the Florentines sell by the hundreds each day.
"We based the collection around the venue. Nearly like American tourism, when they come to somewhere like Florence. Pop drinks with a white T-Shirt and chino shorts. It's the Grand Tour meets American tourism," he explained.
He also deliberately played on the idea of tourists looking up at sculpture, by sitting his entire audience of 400 on thick white pillows, covered in his logo. Post-show, guests dined on fine Italian fare, the Duomo visible below in the city; "Room with a View," whose 100th anniversary is next year, projected in the garden.
Indeed, with Chinese and Americans practically competing this week in Florence as they shop for luxury goods and tourist trinkets, the whole show seemed tremendously timely. All anchored by some great Converse sneakers, his latest collaboration, made in sparkling sequined green or fresh denim.
In short, this was probably Anderson's single most powerful men's collection to date; adding commercial wit to fashionable irony. Though also with an obvious political message, especially the show program with late 19th-century images of naked youth by photographers like Wilhelm Von Gloeden, Wilhelm Von Pluschow and Vincenzo Galdi.
"We worked with these estates – people who came here in the 1800s and took some of the earliest images of homosexuals. People like Oscar Wilde came to Italy to buy these images. So, for me, this was old meets new; pop culture meets the norm and just somehow that when you come to Florence, you want to strip off," said Anderson. Though, with Theresa May about to form a government with the support of the DUP, a political party from his native Ulster that is anti gay marriage, the message was not lost on this audience.
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