Fashion
  • Text Jake Hall
  • Photography Emily Malan
  • 16th January 2020

Ode to David Wojnarowicz

In 1988, Polish artist David Wojnarowicz attended an ACT UP protest wearing what is now one of the world’s best-known denim jackets, emblazoned with the words: “If I Die of AIDS – Forget Burial – Just Bury My Body On The Steps of The FDA.” More than thirty years later, the incendiary genius is being commemorated in a different way; yesterday in Paris, he became the muse of Irish designer JW Anderson, whose FW20 collection featured a series of intarsia jumpers printed with his work. These went on sale straight after the show, with all proceeds being donated to Visual AIDS.

None of this is unusual for Anderson, who regularly uses art as a key point of inspiration. This filtered into his choice of location: Lafayette Anticipations, usually home to contemporary exhibitions. Anderson stripped this back, staging a sparse set with black and white chairs and mannequins, who sat down wearing masks of the late poet Arthur Rimbaud – a reference to the first-ever photo series by Wojnarowicz – and the aforementioned jumpers.

The collection itself was brilliantly dramatic; knee-length, checked coats hung loose and bore a gilded gold chain as a centre fastening; knitted jumpers had hemlines which extended and puffed out into pleated peplums; elsewhere, padded coats frothed out like duvets, accessorised with similarly soft paisley scarves wrapped loosely around models’ necks. Proportions were either exploded to their maximum volume or skintight, bringing a hint of the androgynous sex appeal Anderson is known for.

More generally, he continued to play with cut and toy with the notion of what ‘menswear’ should look like in 2020. In this realm, Anderson is a pioneer – remember his ‘sexy secretaries’, who stomped the runway in block-heeled shoes? This time, the feminine touches are softer. Classic, collarless white shirts had hemlines which dropped to midi-length dress length, whereas bicep-baring, structured tops cocooned around models’ waists.

Backstage, Anderson spoke of not being afraid to reference house codes – after all, repetition is the mark of an icon – so there were new iterations of his classic loafer mules, and a handful of visual nods to past collections. But while the elegance of the line speaks to Anderson’s evolution as a designer, his celebration of Wojnarowicz shows that fashion is at its best when it, to paraphrase another backstage quote, channels its political point of view through a creative lens.