Frederick Anderson Finds “My Own Voice”

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Frederick Anderson has long been a fixture of New York society—as well known for his dinner party quips as his work as the business partner of designers Douglas Hannant and Hanley Mellon. He and former partner Hannant “did everything 100% together,” he says, but Anderson isn’t known for his design work. He had never had a collection of his own, or had his name prominently featured on his designs, but Anderson spent much of last year thinking seriously about starting his own label.

Part of Anderson’s dream was inspired by a love for design that he’d neglected for too long. “After Hanley,” he says, “I have missed being in the work room and having my hands on clothes.” But a bigger part of it, the part that separates a passion project from a lark, stems from his desire to make a statement, to create clothing that not only engages in a conversation with the world today, but that has something meaningful to say.

Looking at 2016’s tumultuous political climate, Anderson felt like the story being told by politicians and the media about African-Americans was out of touch with reality. “Not everybody lives in South Chicago,” he says. Indeed, as the North Carolina-raised son of a broker and a military officer, Anderson’s childhood was miles away from any “inner city” stereotype. So reflecting the diversity of black experience in America was important to him. As he puts it, “It’s important to show alternate voices in order to change the narrative.”

Anderson hopes that his collection, Frederick Anderson, will be that alternate voice. His debut theme, “Black like me,” is motivated by one concept: “everybody is black,” and the immediately striking thing about his collection is just how true this idea holds. Indeed, every piece in it is black (“like us,” Anderson says). But this is only half the story. Overlaid on all of them are textures, patterns, and colors that, while invisible from afar, are striking up close. And the clothes themselves offer an alternate narrative, influenced as they are by Anderson’s own life and passions, like a big collared shirt reminiscent of his suburban 1970s childhood, or a pussy-bowed blouse that consciously recalls Prince. All of it suggests not just a rebuke to racial stereotypes, but an individual voice, one unafraid to speak for itself.

That individuality is very much intentional. Although “Black like me” came out of the turmoil of the election, Anderson ultimately hopes that the protests and chaos of our times will lead us to realize our own potential, and to prize a sense of self that has eluded us as a society. As he puts it, “I think the revolution is going to be speaking through your own voice.”


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