Meet Co Londonderry designer JW Anderson who's the toast of London Fashion Week
Unbleached stripes and pocket parkas ... JW Anderson is back. Hannah Rochell meets the Co Londonderry-born designer who's the toast of London Fashion Week
A navy puffer jacket, a plaid puffer jacket, a plaid backpack, two colours of scarf, some knitwear, a sweater ..." Ahead of his own label's show at London Fashion Week on Saturday, Co Londonderry-born designer JW (Jonathan) Anderson is listing the items from his autumn/winter 2017 collection for Uniqlo that he spotted people wearing from a taxi window earlier that day.
We're sitting in the opulent surroundings of Brighton's Royal Pavilion, where new pieces from his latest collaboration with the Japanese high street hero are being revealed to an intimate gathering of Press over dinner.
As with winter's offering, it is firmly rooted in British culture, Brighton and the seaside in particular, so this is a fitting venue.
"When I first moved to London and I was at university, I used to always come to Brighton," says Anderson (33), from The Loup, near Magherafelt.
"Brighton has all of it, you know; this building, the Victorian aspect, something that's a bit weather-beaten."
The son of Ulster and Ireland rugby legend Willie Anderson, he has come a long way since his days at the London College of Fashion; in addition to the Uniqlo partnership and his own eponymous label which he launched in 2008, Anderson has been the creative director at the Spanish luxury house Loewe since 2013.
His shows are two of the biggest highlights on the London and Paris fashion week schedules, with taste-setting ideas and avant-garde designs that have the fashion pack clamouring to sit front row.
As somewhat of a trailblazer and a champion of new talent, it was announced last week that the imagery for JW Anderson's spring/summer 2018 campaign would be crowd-sourced, calling for photography submissions via social media. Its London shows will also become co-ed (combining men's and womenswear into one collection).
For a designer whose catwalk collections and ideas always err on the side of the artistic, I wonder whether he thinks that high street fashion can also be an art form.
"Yes, 100%," he says. "It's a creative output. It's crafted. I sometimes have this weird fantasy that clothing is 2D and then humans go inside them and they become 3D.
"Someone sent me this amazing picture where there are two people in a park wearing the exact same puffer coat with the same backpack on bicycles. What is interesting is that Uniqlo can work for any colour type, any walk of life, any age."
Teaming up with Uniqlo holds an additional attraction for Anderson, since he habitually shops there himself.
"I'm a superfan, and I will continue wearing it for the rest of my life," he says. "The windcheater is the most 'me' product; I will probably have four of them. I liked this idea that you could roll it up in your back pocket. It's that classic British 101 - it's going to rain at some point in the day. You need it."
He speaks with this zeal and enthusiasm about pretty much every item we look at in the unisex collection, from the sun-bleached stripes on jersey tops and skirts, to the reimagined Fifties-style denim, and a seersucker fabric developed from a tiny swatch of Forties fabric.
"The great thing about Uniqlo is that we can actually make anything," he says. "That's what I love - it's amazing to say 'can we make it?' And they say 'yes, we can. Ta-da! There it is!'."
Anderson's father was capped 27 times for Ireland and is currently Ulster Rugby's elite player development officer.
JW Anderson's passion for being British shines through in this collection and, although he lives in Paris for much of the time, it's London he calls home.
"As much as I'm very busy, I probably have too much spare time. I love walking from my house into central to go to galleries and bookshops. I love going to auctions, to museums, just wandering around," he says.
"I love that moment when you can't do any more and you have to get a taxi back at seven o'clock in the evening.
"I like that about London - that there's so much to see and there's always something new for you to do."