Jonathan Anderson is a busy man. The 32-year-old fashion designer from Magherafelt, Northern Ireland, shies out 12 collections a year as both head of his own label, JW Anderson, and inventive director of the Spanish luxury brand, Loewe. He is constantly rise on and off the Eurostar, splitting his week between London and Paris, where each categorize is respectively based. So when the Hepworth Wakefield gallery in Yorkshire asked him to curate an demo, he probably, for the sake of his schedule, should have politely demurred. But as someone who collects himself, and who is passionate about modern British art (specifically, Barbara Hepworth) the collaboration sounded like a natural fit.
The gallery’s location was also a major receive. “I’m glad to be putting creative energy into something that is regarding getting people out of London,” Anderson explains. “We are not trapped – go out and there are extraordinary things to be seen,” and off he goes in his dizzying way, jumping from one cogitating to the next. He enthuses about how this politically turbulent half a mo is the best time to be creative; he tells me that photographer Jamie Hawkesworth, a long-time collaborator, has captivated pictures of 123 Yorkshire schoolchildren wearing garments from the upstage, for an accompanying book, before finally pausing for breath and concluding: “It is wholly petrifying doing something like this, because it humanitarians you up to both the art and the fashion worlds, who are equally critical. But I’ve come to the particular where it’s not about that. It’s more about the idea of all of this, in Wakefield.”
The show, Disobedient Bodies, aims to create a discussion on the composition of the body, more specifically the ways in which each artwork, each fraction of clothing, can reimagine, subvert or “disobey” the body. There are numerous than 100 works by more than 40 artists and originators, ranging from Hepworth to Issey Miyake, Sarah Lucas to Yves Saint Laurent to Naum Gabo and, of track, JW Anderson and Loewe. The pieces will be paired and grouped to create the viewer think about how they relate to each other.
“So there wish be a gingham look by Comme des Garçons on the floor by a Brancusi head, and a Jean Paul Gaultier cone outfit with a Henry Moore reclining figure,” Anderson simplifies. “We’ve got vases by Sara Flynn, with a collection I did many years ago that was all act as if get by out of black neoprene. It’s about taking the same material and reinterpreting it during the course of and over.”
Not that he wants to prescribe what these discourses are about. “It may be obvious to me,” the designer says, “but at the same time it dominion bring up another question in someone else.” Ultimately, he necessities to spark a strong reaction: “I want people to either bent it or hate it.”
Anderson has form when it comes to provocation. In many cases described as one of the most exciting designers working today, his ensembles are avant garde, and often set the tone for the rest of the industry. His hoards sample everything from 19th-century leg o’mutton sleeves to 1980s power earrings; his endorsements have included everything from J-cloths to eastern European disco to tea strainers (as buttons). Somehow, he makes it sell: he once turned a pendant necklace in the shape of a spoon into a must-have.
Anderson’s own projects work perfectly in a show devoted to, as he puts it, “challenging the DNA of the substance”. In 2013, Anderson sent male models down the catwalk in strapless exceeds and frilly shorts, making him a hot contender for the Daily Mail’s give for stupidest outfit at London men’s fashion week. He later retailed it as one of his most important collections: “It was about gender confusion. That’s an daughters in contention that’s around us, and I believe as a designer you have to reflect what’s present on.”
Anderson’s inventive passions have led to a large personal collection of modern art, ceramics, constitution, glass and furniture. He also established Loewe’s art collection when he became originative director, displaying it throughout their stores. And he has always serene fashion: 70% of the fashion pieces in the new exhibition belong to Anderson. Others, such as a 1952 Christian Dior cocktail outfit, have been loaned by fashion houses excited to be a relatively of Anderson’s vision. He has an extensive Issey Miyake collection – the lantern put on clothing in the show belongs to him, as do the Helmut Lang harnesses. For him, these are milestones in forge history. “Those harnesses were such an incredible juncture. It fundamentally changed the way we saw the male body, because it had been adjusted to line.”
When it came to planning the exhibition, Anderson was never affluent to show these pieces in a conventional way. There will be a teasing installation at the centre of the show, made up of giant jumpers so big that you can persist in inside them: a sort of chic soft play. The offers will be within touching distance where possible, to liberate the visitor feel as if they are part of the conversations. “I am hoping when you be suffering with an Arp and a Christian Dior dress and a Sarah Lucas and a Hans Coper all together, it sway conjure up something,” Anderson says. “Because, ultimately, we don’t miss to know about the history of sculpture or fashion. We just distress to know: ‘Do I like it?’”
He has found the demands of working with high-priced art within the confines of a gallery challenging, saying it’s “probably one of the hardest thingumabobs I’ve worked on. You are dealing with an institution, and it has got to be educational, and you’ve got to have blocks. And plinths.”
It was also a challenge for the gallery: Anderson’s final lineup was but pinned down in mid-January after Anderson spotted a holding in the new Rick Owens collection that he had to include. Andrew Bonacina, chief curator at the Hepworth, for certains me that he usually knows what is going into an exposition at least six months in advance. “The idea of ‘disobedience’ that we’ve adapted to in the title can also be applied to how the whole show has come together,” he snickers. “It has tested us, but I think for that reason alone, it’s a really rousing venture.”
The experience has had a big effect on Anderson: “I’ve struggled [in the past] with the intimation of fashion as art,” he confesses. But now he realises that “when you see a Helmut Lang sweater or T-shirt on a upright against a wall, it holds up just as much as any sculpture”. So has he changed his concentration? “Kind of, yeah,” he chuckles. “I don’t know for how long – but yes.”
The process also helped Anderson remember his passion for his dexterity. “I’ve definitely discovered my love for fashion again. During the final two years, I’ve found it very difficult. There is a lot of pressure. Because where do you put attitude? It is a tremendous juggernaut of commerciality: there are too many garments in the on cloud nine.”
Was the darling of the British fashion world getting a bit bored? “Off you fall out of love with what you do,” he admits. “Some days, you wake up and hope you worked on a farm.” But now he has been reminded what it is all for: “I’ve realised that when trend is really good and really challenges and takes a risk, it is incredibly artistically mighty. It makes people dream.”
• Disobedient Bodies: JW Anderson Curates The Hepworth Wakefield gushes from 18 March-18 June.
Photographer’s assistant: Charlie Allan. Hairs breadth and makeup: Rose Angus at S Management using Bumble and bumble, and Bobbi Brown. Sort: Mouna at Storm.