The JW Anderson founder and Loewe creative director, Jonathan Anderson believes that fashion must be levelled at a point where we don’t have to talk about gender. Anderson is amongst the 35 influential voices from LGBTQ+ arts and activism and has contributed to We Can Do Better Than This. Anderson defines the role of fashion towards improving diversity and supporting LGBTQ+ causes, along with promoting greater freedom of expression.
Reflecting back on the history of clothing, he has always admired people who dressed defiantly, especially queer people. He finds the old cliche of liking Oscar Wilde aside, And his way of dressing to be incredibly romantic, whereas in womenswear, he praises the British painter from the 1920s called Gluck was classified as a lesbian back in the day and wore men’s suits and would go to Savile Row to have them fitted, squared-off perfectly. Another notable one in his eyes is the writer Fran Lebowitz who has very committed beliefs in the power of outsiderness and her way of dressing reflects that with her oversized pinstripe suit jackets and tuxedos.
Queer people have defied the rule book when it comes to fashion, and in fact, used the same to break the norms of society. Through fashion, they can experiment with their identity. Their choice of clothing can sometimes seem risky but it helps them to put a guard up, or you can wear it as a weapon.
Clothing can also be associated with a subculture, or a certain group of people at the same time, it can mark individuality as well. Anderson collects queer photography and scrutinises queer people at liberation rallies in the 1960s and 1970s where they are dressed with a political message. Clothing can really empower the queer especially in a world that has been taking power away from queer people.
Anderson recalls growing up in Northern Ireland, and experimenting with clothes that have helped him discover who he was. He would visit TK Maxx and get his hands on whatever was on clearance that like a pair of orange trousers, or even a fluorescent jacket. He felt excited about dressing against the grey landscape he was existing in. He recalls getting bullied but he knew he was on his own voyage, and his family was liberal and supportive.
He continued to dress outlandishly and remembers working at Prada and going to work in pyjamas, which made him stand out in a way. Eventually, he switched to just a pair of jeans and a sweater, which has more to do with his work than who he is. He believes that people on some days feel more feminine, other days more masculine and their clothes can help them articulate that.
Society wants men, to wear some things, that are masculine and women to wear feminine, Anderson wonders why he is doing menswear and womenswear shows. He doesn’t want to classify people, instead use these categories as ideas.
When he unveiled his menswear collections featuring bustiers and tank dresses, it focused on questioning people to think about what makes something ‘male’ or ‘female’. He liked operating across menswear and womenswear because he believes in having parameters to fight against and believes in the idea of a shared wardrobe.
Fashion today is examined as capitalistic, which makes it expensive. Even though fashion houses have begun to cast more queer people in their campaigns and on catwalks, many global brands are still keen to consider sales first. They are concerned that LGBTQ+ representation could alienate some of the major buyers. An advertising campaign for Loewe done by him about six years ago featured two men kissing in it. In the end, the campaign was restricted to Europe. Fashion is a market-driven business, and as an individual working within that, you come up against certain barriers.
Despite this, Anderson educated about queer history through fashion, raise money for queer causes, and offer more information that might help queer people. With both his brands, he has collaborated with PPOW Gallery to take art by David Wojnarowicz, an incredible gay artist, to raise awareness about his work and his struggle, and raise funds.
Fashion shouldn’t see gender but beauty in people. The people in the industry are incredibly liberal and made up of misfits with different ideas about what can be beautiful. They have the power to break down boundaries around how one should dress.
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