JONATHAN ANDERSON AT KETTLE’S YARD IN CAMBRIDGE
The point of fashion? This isn’t discussed nearly as frequently as it should be. It’s not as if those who invest most in fashion don’t have time to ponder, waiting, as they do endlessly for curtain-up at the shows, which are currently proliferating at a rate that ought to mean fashion is the most important concept on our planet. Fashion is important, but why, and how?
This was the nux of a conversation that began as Jonathan Anderson tentatively introduced some of the looks in his resort collection last night – and the small but engaged audience began to chip in. “I feel a bit awkward sitting here delivering what sounds like a lecture,” observed Anderson, rubbing his nose sheepishly, as a model in gold ruffled boots swept past. “Well, we’re in Cambridge, that’s what people pay for,” remarked one fashion writer.
More specifically, we were in Kettle’s Yard, home of the late Jim Ede, one time curator at The Tate, and a beady-eyed collector, champion and friend of young artists such as Ben Nicholson, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Joan Miró, who once handed Ede one of this paintings (a ravishingly small blue composition that hangs in a study in Kettle’s Yard) as they sat in a restaurant.
During his life, Ede encouraged students at Cambridge to ring his doorbell, look at his collection of early 20th century paintings, 19th century china, ethnic jewellery and pebbles – and stay for tea. Those he trusted were loaned pictures to hang in their rooms.
When he donated the house – comprised of four cottages he’d bought for £12, saving them from demolition – to the university in 1966, he was extremely specific about how it should be kept: exactly as he left it. Although he experimented with the space and its contents while he lived there, constantly shifting paintings, bowls, sculptures and vases around , ensuring that was always something lovely to look at from every vantage point and eye–level, by the time he left Kettle’s Yard, he felt he’d arrived, more or less, at the perfect arrangement.
To this day, there is always a fresh (ish) lemon in the pewter dish in front of a grey sea-scape, a visual echo of the yellow dot in the Miró nearby and the vase of yellow aquilegia opposite.
Ede was a man who saw beauty in everything, but especially in composition and arrangement. He would probably have been a magnificent visual merchandiser – a job that Anderson once tried.
Ede’s approach to art and to creating “a beautiful life” has clearly left an impression on Anderson. Clothes can never be art, says Anderson firmly, “because we’ve created a culture where they’re extremely disposable. But they can contribute to a beautiful life”.
Some would argue that art too has become disposable – and did. It was that kind of evening. Meanwhile, pale, nude-faced models drifted among the furniture and artefacts in some spectacular clothes.
Polka dots in every size became a game of contrasting scale as cotton drill was cut into moulded sheath tops and mis-matching tiered skirts. Gently fitted dresses with slightly raised waists came in prints that seemed partly inspired by William Morris, and partly by Bridget Riley. Denim was structured, stiff, cut into peek-a-boo corsets or trouser suits with wide legs, deep pockets and voluminous sleeves. And the asymmetric earrings added a sculptural geometry.
A small new clutch bag style prompted queries of the Is it a Bird, Is it a Plane variety? As a matter of fact, it had been inspired by the Jazz Age’s fascination for flight. “I like the way it could almost be a toy and you want to play with it,” observed Anderson, doing just that. Bags as playthings? Surely not.
The results of this collection may not have been as quietly contemplative as Ede’s soothing home (these are definitely look at me pieces, intriguingly futuristic and retro at the same time) but If Anderson was looking to create clothes that are the antithesis of disposable, then mission accomplished.