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Fantastic Mr Wes Anderson: how Tenenbaum chic took over the catwalks

When talking about Bar Luce, the Milan bar he designed for Prada earlier this year, Wes Anderson described it – all sugared-almond colours, photo wallpaper and shiny tables – as a place where he would “want to spend my own non-fictional afternoons”. Fashion this season has other ideas. For winter, designers have gone through the cinema screen and into the fictional world of his films. An intimate knowledge of Anderson’s oeuvre is arguably the most fashionable boast you can have this winter.

The Anderson effect can be seen throughout the collections, from Gucci’s specs, loafers and trench coats (very Cate Blanchett in The Life Aquatic), to Miu Miu’s sugar-sweet, vaguely 1960s look that could have come straight out of the wardrobe of Suzy Bishop, the heroine of 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom. Both Vogue and Grazia have namechecked the trend, with Vogue dubbing Margot from The Royal Tenenbaums – all angry eyeliner and hairpins – a style pin-up, while fashion blog The Man Repeller, the home of all things quirky, has been singing Anderson’s praises since last year, when the site featured an article on the uber-preppy Rushmore rules of dressing.

1960s chic … Kara Hayward as Suzy Bishop in Moonrise Kingdom. Photograph: Focus Features/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

It obviously helps that – like other indie darlings Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze – Anderson has been in the fashion fold for a while. The coat that Margot wears was designed by Fendi, and the luggage in The Darjeeling Limited inspired a real life range, Very Troubled Child. His design of Bar Luce is not his first collaboration with Prada, arguably the top dog of fashion brands. Anderson has directed ads for Prada’s perfume Candy, and the fashion house has, in return, funded an Anderson short film, Castello Cavalcanti, starring Jason Schwartzman as a bad racing car driver. The importance of clothing in his films was acknowledged last year, when Anderson’s costume designer collaborator, Milena Canonero, received an Oscar for the extraordinary clothes in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Bellboy outfits have never looked so appealing.

Channelling the Royal Tenenbaums at Lacoste. Photograph: Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Some designers even overtly referenced Anderson this season. Asos used the director as a reference for their collection of fluffy shoes, while Lacoste had the unlikely muse of a tracksuited Ben Stiller in The Royal Tenenbaums, complete with sweatbands. Emilia Wickstead – favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge for ladylike dresses – was perhaps the most unlikely designer to namecheck Anderson, telling me at London Fashion Week that he brought a “whimsical, retro feel, but in a haze”.

Anderson’s films are, of course, very fashion-friendly for precisely this reason. Far and away from the gritty reality of, say, Ken Loach, they are highly mannered affairs, where style is an essential component. There’s always a slightly retro slant to the clothes, even if the films are ostensibly set in the present day, and this may be the reason his work chimes with the current fashion mood. While it’s unclear which particular era is in focus in fashion – the 70s and 80s are currently fighting it out – a general retro, or vintage, feel is there and Anderson fits in to that. Even the puppet cast of Fantastic Mr Fox are relevant. Mrs Fox’s 70s yellow midi-dress with off-centre brooches – a personal favourite – wouldn’t have been out of place in the Marc Jacobs show.

And then there’s the characters themselves. Anderson’s films are never about the popular people or life’s winners – they put outcasts, outsiders, eccentrics and oddities at the centre, and this is the exact type fashion is falling for right now. From the extra-curricular eccentric Max Fischer in Rushmore to ex-child prodigies the Tenenbaums, has-been Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic and the pre-teen runaways Sam and Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson provides an ensemble cast of potential moodboard pin-ups. Add Anderson’s regular collaborators – Owen Wilson, Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, all with fashion moments on their CV – and it’s a no-brainer.

Wes Anderson and his trademark cord suit. Photograph: Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

It’s Anderson himself, always dressed in a cord suit worthy of 90s alpha geek Jarvis Cocker, who could be their leader. The real aficionados will follow him into those non-fictional afternoons – and look at the man himself for style inspiration. That cord suit has become something of a cult concern, with Anderson even borrowing his own look to dress Fantastic Mr Fox. Apparently, he has a new one tailored every few years, and has made it something of a uniform, confessing to wearing a particular brown one (the inspiration for Mr Fox’s) around 200 days a year. This uniform dressing, like Warhol’s button-down shirts and sneakers, or Johnny Depp’s hat and glasses, is catnip for menswear, where finding your style and sticking to it is much admired. Anderson has certainly done that – and fashion, with all its fickle ways, is even more onboard with his look this season. Non-fiction or fiction? That’s your choice.

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