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July 19th, 2013 / Milan, Italy/ Rob Chamaeleo




Enfant Terrible: French terminology that translates to “terrible child.” An enfant terrible is one who defies, unorthodoxly; one who turns water into vodka and pours it inside the punch at an AA meeting. In fashion, we like that, we like the curious bunch; not necessarily the malicious implications of it all, but we like the stir and the mayhem, the gasps of the English tealadies. And if we “like it,” we euphemize it; we translate it to reverie and fascination. Enfant Terrible, how many times have we heard of that in fashion? Too many, and we can attribute that to the ballyhoo of the journalist-explorers who keep our interest pumping.

Franco Moschino, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Alexander McQueen, just to name a few, have all earned that title, well deserved, as they caused their commotions in their respective periods of glory. With all that has happened in fashion, is there anything that can startle us anymore? Is there a new McQueen? Let me take the liberty and respond that with a very biased: No, there is no new McQueen; but there surely are designers who propose radical changes, in their own distinct ways.

Jonathan Anderson is the new enfant terrible, and his proposition is androgyny. Androgyny by itself is too simple a concept, a burnt subject at least today, as androgyny and unisex have even struck couture through Gaultier and Hourani (and Cardin in the 60s?) So what is so terrible about this “enfant?” It is the way that he presents these clothes: asexual, nonsexual, neuter, as you please…

‘'I like idea of a shared wardrobe when garments don’t really have a sex. It’s about what a garment means to a person.” - Anderson (in review by Suzy Menkes)

So let me correct my misguidance and say that this is not even androgyny; it goes beyond that. Jonathan Anderson unchains a new epicene argument, one of those “design-concepts” that many designers would like to have thought first, because the simplicity of it is so enraging. He places the garment in the spotlight, the construction, with an MO that no other designer has reached to that extent, at least not verbally. The model is none other than a hanger for these clothes, which are meticulous studies of architecture and deconstruction. Clients who don these clothes will decipher the new artistic statements that Anderson sells. The craze is for the concept, all there, and for his thorough explanations of it (although some people enjoy the spectacle as well).

Clearly, when the Fall 2013 male models trod down the runway, in “skirts,” ruffles, and pants-less, several in audience stood up and left, undignified and feeling cheated. Anderson unintentionally offended the hubris of that “orthodox civilization,” by introducing these impersonal garments. His purpose is not to shock though, “it is about suspended architecture and about lines, about how you can disproportionally balance the lines,” as he said in an interview with Lou Stoppard for Showstudio. What is interesting is that with the entire stir that had happened after the Fall 2013 menswear show, Jonathan came out to say that it became his best sold collection. What is interesting is that Alexander McQueen sent a model in a Borat-esque mankini 4 years ago and out of partisanship, his flair was applauded. Hypocrisy. I would call one “a conceptual deliberate flaw”, and the other is a mere flaw of provocation; no quotation marks needed for the second one.

If people start opening up to fashion’s articulate side, they will understand there are more than just immediate visuals: clothes can be clever. Evidently, one cannot exempt the “mad designers” from all their madness, but in Anderson’s case, the tantrums that appeared in the media were quite melodramatic (CNN? VogueParis.com’s most bashed?). All this enfant terrible proposed were clothes for people that are not about people. Let us give him a break. This terrible child is special.

Concept in Fashion:


Enfant Terrible: J.W. Anderson