Jonathan Anderson Collection: A Peek Inside Tyler Franch’s Artful Closet

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Photography by Lawrence Cortez. Makeup, Simone Otis for Cadre Artist Management/19/99 Beauty. Photo Assistant, Hyunjin Kim

Tyler Franch finds fun in the everyday with his Jonathan Anderson collection.

They say you should never meet your heroes, but Jonathan Anderson might be the exception — or, at least, it is for Torontonian Tyler Franch, whose closet currently boasts 50+ pieces by the Northern Irish designer. “I met him at one of his after-parties,” begins the fashion and creative director, formerly the vice-president of fashion direction at Hudson’s Bay. “He’s amazing but not what you would expect based on his joyful work,” says Franch. “He’s kind of cynical and over it, but he loves art; he could talk about it all day.”

Since launching JW Anderson in 2008 and becoming the creative director of Loewe in 2013, Anderson has become an artist in his own right. His canvas is clothing, and his style is surrealist, carefully toeing the line between campy and contemporary. While Anderson is perhaps best known for his novelty items (consider his Frog clogs, Pigeon purse, grass collection and more), it was actually his approach to androgynous fashion that started Franch’s infatuation. “There’s a femininity to his menswear,” he shares. “He was the first designer who played with gender in a way that spoke to me and felt authentic to the brand.”

Growing up, the collector was constantly surrounded by beauty. When his hairstylist mother and her friends weren’t dressing him up, Franch was dressing himself in his parent’s curtains. “Being a gay boy in the ’90s meant that I pulled inspiration from not only fashion magazines but pop culture,” he explains, listing the Spice Girls and Sex and the City as prime examples. “Having confidence and pride in what I wore became my security blanket against what was then a much less accepting culture.”

While Franch was never (and still isn’t!) afraid to shop in the women’s section to satisfy his more whimsical wardrobe wants, he was always on the hunt for a menswear brand that better fit his body and aesthetic. That is, until he discovered JW Anderson in 2012 while in London, England, for work. “He celebrates queer culture in almost every collection he makes,” says Franch. “His designs make me feel free — there are no rules, and I love that.”

A decade later, Franch has amassed an art-gallery-worthy amount of Anderson apparel and accessories. Purses proudly line the walls, framed on shelves as if they were Picassos. Chunky novelty shoes are stacked in rows like sculptures. And Franch’s wardrobe itself is sprinkled with varsity stripes, pretty paisleys and other brightly coloured items that would look at home in any modern-art wing.

“That’s the best part about Anderson’s works — they’re pieces of art but totally functional,” he says. “And since I’m financially not ready for my art-collecting era, choosing a fashion designer who can do both has been so fun.”

As such, Franch accessorizes most of his JW Anderson and Loewe items with simple staples, to give his collection the attention it deserves. “I usually just wear one piece; otherwise it can feel like a lot,” shares Franch, describing his style as “preppy with a twist.”

But ultimately, what keeps this collector coming back for more is Anderson’s element of surprise mixed with his unique sense of humour and playfulness. “I’ve heard him say he loves to annoy people, and I think being provocative in fashion is so exciting,” shares Franch. “Wearing his designs makes me feel like I’m not just another lemming out there — it makes me feel special.” Hero worship, indeed.

“Jonathan Anderson does preppy with a twist really well,” says Franch, referencing this graphic shirt from the Spring 2023 collection as the perfect example. “There’s a timelessness to his pieces, but then he has fun with them, and that creates this balance that makes them so wearable.”

“I knew I wanted something super special and traditionally bridal,” Franch says of his wedding suit, made to measure by the JW Anderson atelier. “It was based on an older JW Anderson design but done in a unique fabric and colour. It was great — better than I could ever have imagined!”

Normally, this collector wouldn’t be caught dead in a navy crewneck. (Apparently, it’s too Ryan Reynolds coded.) But these crochet sleeves make all the difference. “Jonathan has this great way of turning a very commercial merino-wool sweater into something super special,” he shares.

Franch has played baseball his entire life. So when his favourite designer paid homage to his preferred pastime, it was an immediate “yes.” “These bags remind me of what the sport means to me beyond just loving the game,” says the collector. “It’s this sense of family, chosen family and community.”

Franch bought his first JW Anderson piece — a sample sweater that never went into production — in 2012 on eBay. “I was pretty young when I bought it, so I didn’t really have the funds to be collecting too much,” he explains. “Finding pieces second-hand was really the only way I could afford them at the time.”

How do you create a signature style without covering it in logos? Just look at the JW Anderson Bumper bag as the model to follow. “In my opinion, he’s the only one who’s doing it right,” declares Franch. “I’m really into these little handbags that feel a bit ’90s.”

If Franch had his way, he’d be in the water all day — “I’m a Pisces!” As such, he likes to take the ocean wherever he goes; hence this fish-inspired JW Anderson design that he bought in Barcelona during his honeymoon. “I just love the idea of being on holiday and having a fun novelty piece to carry around as a souvenir.”

Since making its debut on the Fall 2020 runway, the oversized chain has become an instantly recognizable emblem of the brand. Franch insists that these loafers, which he wore walking down the aisle at his wedding, are lighter than they look.

Sorry, TikTok, but Jonathan Anderson did the pillow bag first. While the social media platform has become obsessed with using sleepy-time accessories to store extra items on planes, the designer debuted this large cushion clutch on the Fall 2023 runway. “I just love when fashion meets novelty meets the home,” shares Franch.

If you couldn’t tell already, Franch isn’t afraid of patterns. His favourite? “I have a lot of stripes and a lot of JW Anderson stripes.” With the exception of a few sweaters, the motif mostly appears on his collared shirts, of which he has more than 20 by the designer.

 

This article first appeared in FASHION’s April 2024 issue. Find out more here.

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