Jonathan Anderson, artistic director of Loewe
Exclusive interview of talented designer Jonathan Anderson. Portrait Éric Nehr.
Before choosing fashion, Jonathan Anderson considered a career in acting. In the spotlight since 2008, thanks to his eponymous label JW Anderson, the talented artistic director of Loewe talks to Numéro about his vision of branding, the relationship between fashion and art, and his attitude towards creativity in general.
Numéro: I think we can safely say your rise has been meteoric. Is your ego tripping out of control, or are your feet still firmly on the ground?
Jonathan Anderson: I always say to myself, “It’s only fashion.” And sometimes success happens so fast you don’t have time to fully realize it. Suddenly I found myself in charge of two creative teams, that of my own brand and that of Loewe. In a situtation like that, your time no longer belongs to you, and the reality of the everyday workload helps keep you firmly grounded. Everyone’s saying how quickly things have happened for me, but
I did my first men’s ready-to-wear collection nine years ago, so I haven’t stopped working for almost a decade. But it’s true I was very lucky that LVMH wanted to invest in my brand, to take that risk, and then to give
me the post of creative director at Loewe. You could rightly think that everything happened very fast for me, but I’ve been gearing up for this moment. Every designer wants to make a mark on their times, and I’m no exception. I want to be able to make my contribution to an industry that, nowadays, moves at the speed of a Formula 1 racing car. You can fall just as quickly as you rise. The world in which I work is totally different today to how it was ten years ago.
You’ve said several times that you’d like to emulate Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane. What is about them that inspires you?
I’ve asked myself lots of questions about that. Probably too many questions. But it’s hard to stop the most influential figures of the era you grew up in having an impact on your work. When I was young, Tom Ford was everywhere. His branding concept had a huge influence on me. As for Hedi Slimane, he was a major player when I was still a student. His impact on men’s ready-to-wear was absolutely enormous, and even influenced women’s wear, which wasn’t his creative domain. The long reign of skinny jeans was all his doing. In terms of marketing and branding, both Tom Ford and Hedi Slimane are extremely talented. And I’ve always been clear about the fact that I don’t see myself as a designer but as a creative director. When you’re running two labels, it simply isn’t possible to do ten collections a year, shut away on your own in a room. You have to become a director, which for me personally is more exciting. I much prefer being involved in developing all the boutiques, and in the whole process concerning the advertising. I decide which magazines we’re going to advertise in and which images we’ll be using. I decided where we were going to locate our new offices. All these choices have nothing to do with designing, but are about an ability to direct. You have to recognize your skills and weaknesses. I’d love to have the talent of a designer like Azzedine Alaïa, but I never will.
Miuccia Prada doesn’t sketch herself but plies her trade intellectually. Would you recognize yourself in this approach?
In fashion the actual clothes only represent a small part of the job. The rest is all about telling a story and knowing how to sell it. That requires very strong art direction, and a very strong story. But I don’t think you have to over-intellectualize fashion. I’ve had several conversations with friends, and the question that always comes up is, “Is fashion an art form?” But I see things slightly differently. I see how art is increasingly taking over commercial aspirations, how it’s become part of very different sort of market. Fashion, on the other hand, has never pretended to be anything but a business. I think we’re living through a particularly interesting cultural moment right now.
Since the campaign where you appropriated a Steven Meisel visual you’ve been compared to artists like Sherrie Levine. Would you go along with that?
I have vast admiration for all artists. Because the creation of fashion is extremely ephemeral the only way for me to escape this is by collaborating with artists. Creating a new form is really difficult for an artist because it’s so easy to immediately trace its genealogy. Whereas fashion designers can cheat and recycle shapes: fashion is a system which generates a constant recycling which generates forgetfulness. Fashion just eats itself.
Read the full article in issue 163 of Numéro, currently available at newsstands and on the iPad.
By Delphine Roche
Jonathan Anderson by Éric Nehr