Doing good business is important to Anderson, for deliberate reasons. “I have a job to do, and to do the creative job I have to be able to balance the books.” And yet, at least of his own company, he says, “It’s not like I want this brand to [turn over] 400 million – it’s never been about that.”
One imagines that being a successful progressive luxury brand that’s British suits his agenda of being a slight outlier. Anderson considers, then responds: “It’s a very difficult thing because ultimately, manufacturing is not really here in Britain. Italy is a huge manufacturing power, France is a huge manufacturing power: I think about, What does that mean in the future?” He adds, “My brand is a British brand, it is based in London, and we have our entire team here. But it has to perform on an international stage. And we have to be careful to grow bit by bit, because there is a tendency to turn the gas on when you have product that is working. We could double, but where is the sustainability in that? Instead, I think if you grow up in tiers, you end up not overexerting the brand equity.”
When this piece comes out, JW will have recently shown its spring/summer 2023 womenswear collection in London. For menswear, however, with London’s masculine schedule currently rather in the doldrums, Anderson says he plans to continue what was at first envisaged as a temporary relocation. “Menswear, I think, will continue to show in Milan. London went through this phase of And the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing but there was no kind of structural goal below that.” Showing for the first time in Milan last June, Anderson told local editors that he is enamoured by the Italian fashion capital’s rich track record in nurturing start-up fashion houses – from Giorgio Armani and Versace to Off-White and Palm Angels – into bonafide superbrands.
Despite the brouhaha around womenswear, menswear remains Anderson’s lodestar. “I think people forget that I started off as a menswear designer, and that is ultimately how I ended up getting to womenswear. So the lab that is done through mens helps me to articulate women. The ecosystem needs that for me to be able to work.”
Conventional gender codes create the cage against which Anderson’s work rattles, supplying the sense of tension, risk and ultimate thrill that his pieces can generate. Many Anderson fans understand this, but there is perhaps one prime exemplar: A$AP Rocky. “I was very lucky through a dear friend to meet A$AP many years ago, and to do a collaboration together. I’ve always been fascinated by his approach to clothing: how he articulates the idea of his standing within music, and his standing as being a kind of cultural ambassador, through clothing. He goes through that as a creative process, to express himself, instead of it being a stylistic approach. And I think along the way he has broken so many boundaries without being loud about it.”
For the most positive of reasons, Anderson is slightly conflicted by Loewe. “It has carved out a niche that wasn’t really there. It was that brand that was incredibly small, and it has ended up having a personality that is quite cerebral and in the background. So while the Puzzle is one of the biggest-selling bags on the marketplace, it doesn’t feel like we are overexposed. Sometimes it can get quite frustrating because you’re like, Oh, do people not realise the scale of the brand? I think that people would be surprised about how big Loewe is in comparison to bigger brand names.”
Anderson says he works in three-year cycles. This most likely explains that – having just turned 38 in September of this year – he is nurturing apprehensions of creative mortality. Or as he puts it, “As you approach 40, you start to realise that you don’t have the same speed you once did. Although I do think you have more knowledge, which helps. But – and not to be all doomsday about it – I think there is a 20-year period in which you can be prolifically creative.”