Men’s – Ubi Amor, Ibi Oculus. Loewe AW23

Season after season, Jonathan Anderson keeps on delivering the most innovative, technically mind-blowing, disturbing – in a way great art feels! – and unexpected collections for Loewe. His autumn-winter 2023 line-up for the brand is the most brilliant and thrilling outing we’ve seen this entire menswear season. “I do feel like less is more. But in a new way,” said the designer. “I don’t think we’re heading into modernity like it was. It’s not like ’90s modernity; there’s something more peculiar happening.” For Anderson, clothes are the main objects of consideration – not the runway venue (a white cube showcasing artworks by contemporary artist Julien Nguyen became the perfect, harmonious backdrop), not celebrity appearances (it’s not easy to make the collection itself more attention-seizing than Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russel sitting in the f-row). This designer is one of the vanishingly few in the luxurysphere who believes that it’s enough to put clothes, and deep-thinking about them, first. It’s reached the point where it feels radical, avant-garde. “I think – I hope – that we’re going into a period where it is about being uncomfortable in design,” he added. “That we are trying to find something new.” This conversation was in his debrief, after a menswear show that proved, par excellence, that there’s nothing more absorbing and mentally exciting than simply being able to react to the meanings of what’s before you. And to witness configurations of stuff you’ve never quite seen before.

In Anderson’s world, the subject of clothes is multi-layered but startlingly focused on clarity; what be called “a reductionist act.” His collection was about exaggerating the materiality of fashion fabrication into the realms of pure-lined 3D sculpture – full metal jackets beaten by artisans from copper and pewter; stand away structured coats molded by hat-makers. What he’d done with the short, back-fastened shirts is quite a riddle. Some of them were rigid, wrinkled vellum – the work of traditional book-binders. Others were delicately made in hammered silk, a match for the boxer shorts, worn with nothing but leather ankle-boots. “I wanted the idea of something which is quite sensual underneath, with something quite hard,” said Anderson. Some of the boys wore angel wings. That’s where the reference spun sideways into the multiple art-historical/homoerotic sensibilities that focus Anderson’s vision. Partly, it was about resurrecting to modernity the iconography of old masters painters, specifically, the work of the French romantic allegories of Prud’hon and the link Anderson has made with Nguyen. His digital artworks – referencing traditional painting techniques – of Nikos, a Loewe model, were blown up in the center of the stage. What might end up sounding complicated was as distilled and to-the-point as could be. Anderson glorified Loewe’s craft skills in leather goods in textures of suede and shearling, shaved into sensuously tactile bulbous silhouettes in this show. But equally as head-turning were his pared-back, brilliantly on-the-money Loewe desirables: long, slimline coats in leather, and the reiterated wool shapes with deeply plunging cowl necklines. They were worn with a gesture—one arm out, crooked in a way which played on the mind like a memory of classical portraiture. Simple, but way out of the ordinary. Anderson felt that arriving at that coat had hit the quintessential mark. “Sometimes, by getting that one look, it helps you to create a narrative throughout the show,” he said. “There’s something in that it says everything and nothing at the same time“.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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