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JW Anderson looks to the 1980s suburban disco for inspiration

“You know that thing when you just get obsessed with a track and listen to it over and over and over again?” asked Jonathan Anderson of the assembled fashion press, after his Saturday afternoon show at London fashion week. The answer was a resounding yes after this show. It was soundtracked by the Human League’s 1981 song ‘Seconds’ on loop, an ear worm if ever there was one.

The music choice was no accident. Anderson’s autumn/winter 2015 collection was based on party girls. But forget the likes of Alexa Chung and Tallulah Harlech, both of whom sat on the front row. Anderson’s muses were of the eighties variety – the Human League’s Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall perhaps. Models wore striped lame blouses, leather skirts, jumbo cords, brightly coloured ruched boots and geometric Perspex earrings, sometimes at the same time. There were peplums on dresses, exaggerated shoulder pads and even batwings. Rather than looking at catwalk fashion of the era, or even the cool of a subculture like the New Romantics, this show had a suburban glamour of a Saturday night out at the local disco.

A model at JW Anderson
Photograph: JACK TAYLOR/AFP/Getty Images

Backstage, Anderson said of the decade “it was a bit wrong but I think that was one of the most exciting moments in fashion and we have a stigma against it.” He narrowed the focus to a place: Berlin, and Soviet countries before 1989. “We were looking at places where they weren’t able to express themselves,” he said. “I like this idea that you had to find your freedom, put your stamp on something. You put the look together and that’s the character you are, in that room. Great clothes are about being creative.” These were certainly that – this was a collection that fizzed with energy and ideas.

With his Saturday afternoon slot, Anderson is the first agenda-setting designer on the London fashion week schedule each season. In the past, he has proposed blouses for men, name-checked J Cloths as inspiration and twisted nautical designs to something more subversive. His ideas often take a few seasons to trickle down to the rest of fashion but they always do – the current vogue for unisex designs arguably started with Anderson’s menswear autumn/winter 2013 collection which featured corsets. For this reason, he is held in high regard in fashion. Currently the Creative Director of Loewe as well as his own brand, he received minority investment from LVMH in September 2013. While other designers have maintained the 1070s vibe of spring/summer, Anderson’s 1980s focus is an early sign that fashion’s retro lens is set to shift. Flares and polo necks – currently the height of fashion – may soon, once again, be a thing of the past.

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