Jonathan Anderson‘s Loewe universe is a wonderland of eclectic, curated – and sustainable! – things. And the autumn-winter 2021 collection for men is like a treasure chest of details, curiosities, textures, crafts prints and colours. But to organize what we’ve got: this Loewe lookbook actually feautures two collections, and the one at the bottom is produce from the company’s Eye/Loewe/Nature sustainable-practice department. This time, the communication came as a show-in-a-book, wrapped up in a coffee-table sized monograph on the queer New York artist Joe Brainard, and as a show-on-a-shirt – a huge T-shirt printed with all the sustainable-practice pictures. Why Brainard? “I remember zines he’d done in the ’70s. We remade a book on him which we’ll be selling in bookshops, and the proceeds will go to the charity we work with all the time, Visual Aids, to help artists who have suffered from AIDS,” says Jonathan Anderson. “I felt like Brainard is so important. He was part of a huge movement, with his writing and his pansy collages – his work is now at MOMA and the Pompidou. I like his writing, it has huge optimism, questions sexuality and things like that. But he’s one of those underground figures.” Anderson talks through the collection in an open-access video on the Loewe website, where it’s easy to see the assembly of charming pansy patterns made into big cardigans, or vast rectangular trousers, or inset as leather marquetry on Loewe Puzzle bags. You also get to understand how the panels of a patchwork shearling are pieced together from reproductions of Brainard’s canvases. And how a tote bag is decorated with the artist’s painting of a whippet on a green background. It’s all adorable and completely wantable. And the extra kick to the feel-good sensation of buying it is that your money is also going to do some good in the world. “I think the whole thing now is about clothing and something else,” says Anderson. “I think the customer wants more than just the clothing now. They want to make sure you have a unique viewpoint and, at the same time, a moral viewpoint.” A joyful vision and a bit of a mad-creative take on fashion are also rare luxuries to enjoy vicariously these days, what Anderson calls “being imaginative with clothing.” His current work on extreme trouser shapes delivers all that. Besides the multi-strapped leather and grommeted punk trousers, the pieces that might read as maxi-skirts actually turn out to be pants too. “I did a lot of wide, wide, super-wide trousers. Kind of performance trousers – this idea of being in your bedroom and dancing on your own.” Which we know is an actual social phenomenon in these days of lockdown.
Amongst the collection is also a huge, cosy multi-patterned Shetland-cum-Norwegian type sweater, knitted together from upcycled yarns. It links directly into the work on sustainable research that’s been going on for four years with the Eye/Loewe/Nature collection. It’s much more than an isolated side-project, Anderson explains. “We set it up as an incubator inside Loewe to try to work out a long-term solution to sustainability. It’s where the entire design process is monitored from start to finish. Every year we try to chip away at something – buttons, zips, hardware, plastic clips – so that what was a problem becomes less of a problem. Because it then means that your supply chain can deal with it, manufacturing know how to deal with it, and the design team knows how to design within that framework,” he says. “And from those learnings, working with suppliers, we can disseminate elements into the bigger workings of Loewe.” In practical terms, it’s meant “buying a huge bulk of used knit sweaters, or denim, and working them into garments. The great thing is that the whole company is involved. What I like about the industrial side is the idea of talking to suppliers like YKK about a problem – and actually making it not a problem. The trouble is when you’re impatient, like me, you want to be completely sustainable tomorrow – but you have to realize it takes time. It means turning an industrial revolution into a new eco revolution. Ultimately, the big picture is, we all have to do it,” he says. “It’ll probably be an ongoing thing throughout my entire career.” If luxury goods companies ever worried that customers would baulk at buying products made of upcycled or non-traditional materials, then the testing ground of the Eye/Loewe/ Nature collection is beginning to prove them wrong. “This is the third collection now,” says Anderson. “And, you know, it’s becoming very, very popular.”
Collages by Edward Kanarecki.