JW Anderson's Spring 2014 Collection Chooses "Avant-Garde Bland" for the New Year

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Backstage at his show, the young Irish designer JW Anderson summed up his design philosophy for The Guardian in a few uncompromising words: "You need to feel uncomfortable." In his hands, uncomfortable doesn't mean appliqués, stilettos, extremism, or pattern mixing. Uncomfortable means deconstruction and a simplicity that's almost painful in its barebones aesthetic.

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In his press notes for the show, JW Anderson referred to this concept as "avant-garde bland," and the models shuffled down the runway in flat leather slip-on sandals and clothing that, for all its careful pleating and folding, looked a bit homemade. Almost every look was head-to-toe neutral, and some of the clothing looked like it was glued onto the body, or hanging there by threads, as though his models were a group of futuristic cavewomen who'd just rediscovered the art of needle and threat. Sweaters were slit up the side, fabric was visibly tied on in chic, larger-than-life knots. You couldn't help but be reminded of exactly what the designer was working with: Not vague historical reference, not the Muses, but literal fabric.

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

That's the irony of "deconstruction" — it puts all the emphasis on construction. JW Anderson's show was a designer's show, and his tricks of folding and draping will absolutely impress those in the know, but may be lost on anyone searching for next season's cocktail-gown inspiration. What to take away from this avant-bland look? All-white? Boxy silhouettes? Hard to say — and that's a pretty bold move in a fashion month that so far has loved the feminine, the wearable, the floral, and the pastel.

Apparently, Anderson was inspired by things that are "wipe-clean," like a plastic tablecloth or childproof walls. Or a clean slate? Maybe this is fashion for the new year, and we won't know it until we get there, fed up with the glitter of the old.