Jonathan Anderson is in his surrealist element, and his work has never felt so liberated and full of expression as now. The autumn-winter 2022 collection for Loewe, which has caused a stir on social media, is an intriguing and confident take on all things erotic and kinky, conveyed through impeccable and innovative craftsmanship. But also, in times when reality becomes outrageous and nonsensical, it’s only logical that fashion should start to reflect illogicality. Anderson’s new season clothes included the following: a mini trapeze dress with a car trapped in the hem; tube dresses with high-heel pumps stuffed down them; rough-cut shearling pervily butting against latex; shoes entirely sunk in some sort of drawstring-bag galoshes; and lots of balloons: red ones squeezed between shoe straps and oozing from bandage-dress drapery; brown and beige ones blown up as bras, the knots bobbling along as obscene parodies of nipples. “A balloon creates tension,” Anderson observed. “It will pop. It won’t last forever.”
Surrealism – the art movement that turned pre–WW II mass psychological tension into art in the late 1930s – has never been more relevant. But Anderson was already going surreal-ward last season – reveling in the freedom of being unshackled from fashion rules, doing things instinctively, without reason. It parallels a time when it was only human to respond dementedly to the trampling of order all around us. But there’s plenty of method in Anderson’s madness. His opening series of short leather, cap-sleeve dresses, the skirts molded to seem as if swishing in the wind, had a lot of Réne Magritte about them. The polish and luxurious colors also had a lot to say about Loewe’s fundamental materials and skills as a leather-based house. Anderson mentioned that he’d also been looking at feminist art. There were references to the surrealist Meret Oppenheim (all the fluffy fur) and Lynda Benglis, who uses poured latex (the rubber tanks and mini-dresses), that art-knowledgeable people would clock as footnotes. Still, the biggest art-Anderson-Loewe connection was set out before the audience in the center of the show: a series of squashes by Anthea Hamilton. The British sculptor and Anderson have already got together on Hamilton’s art performances at the Tate. The squashes, it turns out, were constructed for her in leather by craftspeople at Loewe. There’s clever marketing in all of these interconnections, these compliments to the intelligence of avant-garde, art-appreciating Loewe women of the world. They buy fashion for such things as gallery openings and art fairs: Loewe, in all its wild eccentricities, is a uniform for them.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.