Fashion week previews are a privilege afforded to very few fashion journalists. However, it is something I have been doing unofficially for years. It helps me understand the season if I understand where the designer is coming from, and the designers themselves like a sounding board who offers both constructive criticism and positive encouragement as well as downright admiration.
This season for the SS11 shows in London Swarovski wanted to know if I would like to blog about the young designers they work with, and since I was doing some of them anyway, I agreed.
Tonight I start the previews by sharing my visit to see J.W Anderson at his studio/apartment. J.W shows his womenswear on Saturday at 5pm, and his mens next Wednesday.
Jonathan with his hunk of Swarovski off-cut that he used to make his LFW film look psychedelic
"I'm not here to change fashion - I just want to give it a narrative."
I first met Jonathan W Anderson (above) a few years ago when he was still doing jewellery and was fresh out of a relationship from Rufus Wainwright, for whom he designed stage costumes. Back them he was finding his path as a menswear designer. Now he has a growing menswear business, a new womens label, and has recently signed two successful straight from the runway sales deals with Liberty for his womens clothes and Oki-Ni for his mens.
He is unlike any designer I have met in many ways - number one among them is that he completely embraces digital culture and social media. His blog gets 1500 hits a day from people around the world, (when I was there he was answering an email from a fan in Chile). I've just been watching on his blog the nattily edited film from yesterday showing how to bleach Liberty Print, set to Miles Davis.
In addition Jonathan is trained in drama, and this, combined with having an English teacher for a mother means he name-drops Joyce and Dostoevsky more readily that Prada and Comme.
This is Jonathan's mood board of William Gedney images from the photographers Nantucket series
S/S 11 INSPIRATIONS:
"My new collection is about a girl and a boy running away from a privileged upbringing to take a road-trip across America, experimenting with LSD (which I have never tried, but would have liked to!). Unsung photographer William Gedney's images of a Nantucket family have also been a huge inspiration. Gedney was photographing during the 50's and 70's, and was taught by Diane Arbus but his work is not widely known. Both collections have been based on a smorgasbord of youth culture, as seen in Karlheinz Weinberger's book of photographs of German teenagers recreating American teen stereotypes, and Patrick Frey's collection of Swiss punk and new wave images in the book Hot Love (both below). The colours of the collection were inspired by 70's sugar crystal trees and the way light refracts and diffuses through crystals. I asked them for off-cuts and asked for the giant lumps of crystal from which they carve crystals...they thought it was an eccentric request, but we used this lump (the one he is holding above)to make our video look trippy. We also asked them for crystal leftovers, and so got a lot of random bits and bobs which we upcycled."
Page view of Karlheinz Weinberger: Photos 1954-1995
"There is always a storytelling element to my collections. As well as that, the fact that we design for a London audience means we have to consider two extremes: the work has to be avant garde and exciting, but also a viable prospect for buyers. We like to keep our buyers informed during every step of the design process.
I don't want to keep my work private, I want to let people in - and it seems that people want to know more about us. Canon have sponsored us and the amazing cameras they have given us mean we can make videos of the creative process (how to bleach out Liberty print fabrics, how to add the Swarovski crystals to our shoe designs and the casting videos). We have also created a fashion film as our womenswear presentation, which was shot by shining light through giant crystal off cuts into a dark room filled with powder, which achieved the magical LSD effect."
"The film we've dome for LFW was shot by Sherif Hamzar, Steven Klein's old assistant. Robbie Spencer styled it."
"I wanted to revive the lost art of doilie making, so I've sent my team out to find old ones. They take days to make. I'm using them to create T-shirts." (below)
"This dress is inspired by my friend Yasmin Sewell."
"A bra top from the womens range covered with the leftover Swarovski crystals"
"I found this kid on the street in Copenhagen, his name is Ben and he will be opening my menswear show on Wednesday."
From Karlheinz Weinberger book
All photos: Fashion Editor at Large