Jonathan William Anderson, originally from Northern Ireland, attended London College of Fashion, specializing in Menswear while working as a visual merchandiser at Prada. Following his graduation in 2005, he debuted his JW Anderson’s Menswear collection at London Fashion Week in 2008. Despite being well received, it wasn’t until the launch of his womenswear collection in 2010 when he officially acclaimed commercial and critical success. The British Council has awarded him several times with the NEWGEN sponsorship, which provides a great launching pad for young, up–and-coming designers. As a brand that specializes in menswear and womenswear, JW Anderson is keen on exploring the relationship between men and women, creating pieces that complement both genders as opposed to separating them.
• Menswear and womenswear brand
• Worldwide online and in-store concessions
• Sold minority stake held by LVMH
• High profile collaborations such as Topshop
• No stand-alone store
• Predominantly UK based
• Small PR representation
• More collaborations
• LVMH could expand the brand into more markets
• Establishing its own flagship store
• More advertising campaigns
• Competition from young designers
• Fast-paced industry
• Financial implications
JW Anderson explores the idea of gender blending, designing shapes that suit both men and women, and creating a concept of a shared closet. The clothes are a fusion of streetwise and futuristic sensibility. Despite elaborate architectural design features, they still have the right enough quirkiness to make them desirable.
This uncompromising approach of avant-garde minimal androgyny is a solid USP and provides a niche within the ready-to-wear market. According to Anderson in an interview with The Business of Fashion; “I think the brand will always be about androgyny,” he continues. “I love the relationship between men and women — that coupling. Men with men, women with women, women and men, that kind of mixture of sex and sharing of garments — I think it’s normal. It’s about wearing clothes that tell a story and an emotion; it’s not so much about gender.”
The brand’s logo is an amalgamation of the initials “JW” that form an anchor-shaped emblem. In terms of designing the logo, Anderson wanted the brand to be about the experience rather than about him. A valid point made by the designer since it’s crucial for consumers to be able to express themselves through brand identity. Hence, it’s easy to form lines creating some type of brand loyalty. “I remember when designing the logo, it had to be called J.W. Anderson [and not Jonathan Anderson] because it wasn’t just about me, it was about a brand. Branding is ultimately what this industry is about. It’s about amazing design, but it’s also about a brand [space] that people want to dream in.”
The brand’s social media sites have more visuals with minimal text written in capitals. Photographs with plain background showcasing the products in the foreground convey a black-and-white minimal aesthetic, engaging in a rather sophisticated tone with their consumers. Despite using a range of social media sites to communicate with their audience, their Tumblr and WordPress sites seem to be neglected in comparison to their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.
Social media sites:
The JW Anderson product range consists of garments and accessories. Since adding Resort and Pre-fall Womenswear lines, they produce six collections a year (two a year for men/ four a year for women). The brand is a proud advocate of souring and manufacturing all their goods in factories in the UK such as at Unlimited Fashion LDT. Anderson states that it’s vital to honor British craftsmanship, because producing locally gives the advantage of overseeing production to ensure the highest quality of products. Earning this “made in Britain” stamp, however, isn’t very cost efficient, which is why other companies would rather manufacture their goods overseas to minimize costs. High-standard quality products are established at a high price point that ranges from GBP 500-2000.
Popular choices of fabric include leather, cotton, wool, tweed and suede. However, for almost every collection, the designer introduces new fabrics and design techniques. For Anderson’s A/W 2014 Womenswear collection at London Fashion Week, he worked with corduroy for the first time despite stating his dislike toward the material. He manipulated the fabric into angular silhouettes with restricting high-funnel necklines and suspended hemlines that dramatically stock out. Another example of the designer’s approach to working with new fabric was for his S/S 2013 Womenswear collection. Q: Are there any new design techniques or fabrics that you’ve introduced for the first time with this latest collection?
A: The idea of screen-printing – using a cotton sponge to create something that felt like neoprene but wasn’t.
Apart from his main ready-to-wear line, Anderson has been involved in various collaboration projects such as with high-street giant Topshop and Versace’s diffusion label Versus. Since LVMH bought a minority stake in the brand, he was appointed creative director of Spanish high-end leather brand Loewe. He has also been the creative director of Sunspel since 2011, but resigned this year presenting his last collection for the company.
Despite not having his own stand-in store, JW Anderson has over 60 stockists worldwide. Having a stand-in store requires significant funding, which is why young designers profit more through online and retail concessions. This is a sufficient method to minimize costs and allows the brand to focus on other areas in need of funding such as manufacturing goods at the highest quality while keeping up with high demand. The brand has concessions at high-end, market level renowned department stores such as Barneys in New York, Harrods, Selfridges and Dover Street Market. Other online concessions include ASOS, Open Ceremony and Net-a-Porter. The majority of their stockists are from the UK, but with international stockists in major fashion capitals such as France, the USA, Japan and Italy the brand is able to expand its market and compete at a global level. In Dover Street Market in London, other young labels and competitors whose retail spaces are placed on the same floor as JW Anderson include 1205, Lou Dalton and Jonathan Saunders.
• Harvery Nichols
• Dover Street Market
JW Anderson is represented by London-based sales agency Rainbowwave. Other clients include Each X Other, Marios Schawb, Prabal Gurung and Peter Pilotto. They may be represented by a UK-based agency, but Rainbowwave have managed to coordinate stocking their goods overseas, enabling the brand to expand its market. While JW Anderson currently doesn’t have his own flagship store, the agency features the brand in two showrooms: one in London and the other in Paris. After designers establish themselves within their own territory, exporting their brand into other countries is usually the next step for any young designer. This needs to be planned out in a strategic way since the products need to appeal to any new market in which the brand wants to establish itself. The brand’s fusion of minimal and avant-garde style might appeal to the Scandinavian market. Its consumers respond well to darker hue color palettes with a minimal aesthetic. JW Anderson already has an online concession with Danish company Stylepaste, so expanding the brand further in Sweden could be a good move. Stockholm’s high-end department store NK would be an ideal retail concession to stock their goods since it already stocks brands such as Karen Millen and Burberry.
Fashion trade shows:
One national tradeshow where JW Anderson has showcased is the London Fashion Weekend Exhibition. Running alongside London Fashion Week, the London Fashion Weekend Exhibition showcases newly emerging, talented designers presenting their collections to buyers and the press. As a NEWGEN designer, the British Fashion Council accredited the brand’s exhibition stands in spring/summer 2011, autumn/winter 2011 and spring/summer 2012. The brand also presents its ready-to-wear collections at the catwalk every season at London Fashion Week.
Target customer profile:
The typical JW Anderson customer is a cool, creative and contemporary individual with an urban city lifestyle. To keep up with the brand’s high price points of GBP 500-2000, the consumer’s income has to be in the upper range. The price of the brand’s ready-to-wear line isn’t very affordable for most university/high school students, so any consumer probably has a steady job with a steady income. However, the brand’s high-street Topshop line, with a much more affordable price range, is aimed at that particular consumer group that wants to emulate that exclusive high-end lifestyle. In an interview with Marie Claire UK, the Anderson describes the type of person he imagines would wear his garments:
Q: What sort of girl would you like to see wearing your garments?
A: I don’t really see one particular type of person wearing my clothes, and would rather see lots of different types of women wearing J.W. Anderson. It spawns creativity when you can see the same thing worn in different ways.
Q: How have the J.W. Anderson boy and girl developed over the seasons?
A: I think they have become a lot more graphic and a lot more confident over time. They have become a lot freer in terms of shape and architecture.
Q: Describe the J.W. Anderson girl in three words?
A: Craft goes machine.
JW Anderson ready-to-wear customer profile:
Income group: upper range earnings of £40,000 to £150,000 and higher
Where does she/he work: He or she works in the creative industry in an established position, varying from working in a PR agency, curator at an art gallery, magazine editor, art director, working in advertising, media etc.
Who is she/he: He or she is someone with a smart urban city lifestyle; someone who lives in a metropolitan city such as London, Paris or New York.
What does she/he like: They are very bold and creative individuals who are self-assured and confident. They also attended the top universities and have high-level degrees; they are cultured and well-educated.
What do they do: They like going to museums and art galleries. To be cool and cotemporary, they occasionally attend live music events that play indie bands. Others pass their time with traveling, dinning at hip restaurants, enjoying down-time at coffee shops such as Starbucks, or showing a keen interest in literature.
Where do they do it: In cities like London and New York.
Why do they buy the brand: They buy the brand to show how contemporary they are, wearing something that is avant-garde. The JW Anderson style is something that blends effortless street style and minimal sophistication. Consumers buy into the lifestyle of urban city futurism. The “made in Britain” trademark is an attribute that its consumer-aware audience finds appealing.
• Christopher Kane:
London-based designer Christopher Kane launched his label in 2006. From originally specializing in womenswear, Kane expanded the brand into menswear in 2010. Kane is a worthy competitor of JW Anderson because they have both been recognized as young, up-and-coming UK talent with a similar career background. Before Anderson took over in 2012, Kane was also head of design for Versus working closely with Donatella Versace on eight womenswear collections. Both of them also have recently managed strategically strike-significant business deals, by selling their minority stock to major French luxury conglomerates. JW Anderson struck a deal with LVMH and Christopher Kane with Kering. Christopher Kane also seems to have a better sales agent since his brand has much more international stockists, including places where JW isn’t stocked such as Germany, Saudi Arabia and Canada. Consequently, the designer perhaps should find another sales agency other than Rainbowwave to represent him.
Paula Gerbase is the designer behind 1205. A fellow NEWGEN recipient, the brand poses a threat to JW Anderson because its ethos is quite similar to Anderson’s. They too feature menswear and womenswear collections with a strong emphasis on the idea of a unisex wardrobe and exploring the intriguing balance between masculinity and femininity. When it comes to comparing the two designers’ technical skills and background, Gerbase has the advantage of working as head designer for Savile Row tailor, Kilgour for five years. Prior to this, she studied womenswear at Central Saint Martins and trained in the womenswear atelier of Hardy Amies. Tailoring appeals to a wider authentic as opposed to elaborate structures, so this is something Anderson needs to be aware of. The majority of 1205’s International stockists are situated in Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea. They have around a dozen concessions in Japan, revealing that 1205 seems to be more popular in the Asian market than JW Anderson. Tapping into the Asian market more heavily is something Anderson should consider working on, with a sales agency to expand his goods in emerging markets.
Other competitors include:
• Simone Rocha
• James Long
• Palmer// Harding
• J. JS Lee
• Tim Soar
• Lou Dalton
• Jonathan Saunders
• Marios Schwab
JW Anderson is represented by London-based agency AI PR. The designer’s Topshop collaborations have received a lot of press coverage, which paved the way for an opportunity for the brand to attract a wider audience. The media exposure has also gained the brand a celebrity following such as Rita Ora and Alexa Chung, which is a great endorsement of Anderson’s products.
Q: You have many celebrity fans. How important is that endorsement in the success of a brand?
A: It’s weird because it’s something we have never really pushed. I just want people, whether they’re famous or not, to want to wear my clothes. If a celebrity or non-celebrity wants to wear it, then that’s amazing because it’s another person who believes in what we do.
Above-the-line marketing tactics include the launch of the brand’s first official advertising campaign for its S/S 2014 collection shot by Jamie Hawkesworth back in 2013. It featured in selected magazines such as Vogue UK as well as flyers, posters, pop-ups and selected stores. Vogue has always been a huge supporter of the brand, but other magazines featuring the brand include Teen Vogue, Elle UK, Glamour US, The New York Times, Dazed & Confused, ID Magazine and W. GQ is another publication that could potentially feature the brand’s products, especially its menswear line.
Progression – future business strategy:
The investment backed by the luxury conglomerate LVMH is going to provide promising opportunities for the JW Anderson brand to expand further within the market. Furthermore, taking part in competitions, as the designer has done in the past, would be an ideal method for the brand to receive more funding. This coming May, LVMH is going to award the Young Fashion Award prize to a fortunate young designer.
Exporting the brand into other cities within the Asian, Central European and US markets could open the door for the brand to grow further into a household name. Thereafter, greater funding would enable the brand to establish its first stand-alone store, rather than just selling its goods through online/in-store concessions. As the newly appointed creative director for Spanish brand Loewe, more collaborations and perhaps building up activities in the Central European market could be profitable. Besides Topshop, H&M could be a promising high-street organization with which to establish collaboration.
For future marketing strategy, additional funding would pave the way for the brand to launch more advertising campaigns for its ready to wear line since this seems to be lacking. Indeed, JW Anderson seems to be on the road toward progressively growing into a household name, despite the competition from other young designers along the way.