Men’s – Eclectic, Curated, Sustainable. Loewe AW21

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.

Cuteness Alert! Loewe x My Neighbor Totoro

Cuteness alert! It may only be the start of 2021, and here we are with one of the most charming collaborations ever.  Loewe has revealed that it will be dropping a capsule collection with none other than the iconic Japanese animation film company, Studio Ghibli. The Loewe x My Neighbor Totoro capsule collection sees the animated fantasy film come to life as its iconic characters and landscapes appear on limited-edition ready-to-wear pieces, leather products and accessories. Though released in 1988, My Neighbor Totoro remains a cultural landmark beloved by not only film enthusiasts but also children and adults alike. The capsule collection seeks to celebrate the feel-good story’s beloved characters through a mutual love of craft and artisanal techniques shared by Loewe and Studio Ghibli. Comfort is at the heart of the collection, so expect relaxed shapes and a vibrant colour palette with hints of chrome and Loewe’s iconic tan. The ready-to-wear pieces include T-shirts printed with both Totoro and Loewe’s logo, hooded sweatshirts with The Camphor tree (where Totoro is often found napping) as well as handbags and small leather goods with even more whimsical motifs.

The collection is out today! Here are some of my favourite pieces:

Images courtesy of Loewe; the campaign is photographed by Gray Sorrenti.

Genius. Loewe SS21

We have to start loving fashion again,” Anderson declared. “We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. So let’s enjoy it!” The best antidote for a crisis is escaping it – to the fullest. So just like this, Loewe‘s Jonathan Anderson came up with one of the season’s best collections, which is all about boldness, creativity and craftsmanship. Also, it’s fashion being fashion. Simply speaking: extraordinary! Just one glance at the exuberant, freewheeling gestures of the women in action in the Loewe spring-summer 2021 look book sends that sensation surging back. From the clothes’ voluminous playfulness to the active involvement of 16 intergenerational women right through to the intricate handwork in the pieces, this was Anderson’s great big blowing up of all the creative limitations that threaten to drive fashion back to dullness in these dark times. “We were all in confinement when we were doing this. We had huge issues getting fabrics, so we used what we had. My brief was: Just make your fantasy of what you want! It was a massive team effort. Each look is to show craft and fashion.” There are mind-spinning, multidisciplinary, multi-platformed layers to unpack here. In a tangible sense, the Show-on-the-Wall was delivered as a kit of life-size posters, with a roll of art-printed wallpaper commissioned from Anthea Hamilton, a pair of scissors, wallpaper paste, and a brush. Hamilton is there as one of Anderson’s poster women, striking a semi-martial-arts pose in a puffy white dress ruched up with parachute tape. The video artist Hilary Lloyd, who collaborated with Anderson for a men’s Loewe show a few seasons ago, and the painter Jadé Fadojutimi both swirl in generously layered black taffeta trapeze dresses. Others portrayed wear pieces that evoke Spanish and Dutch Old masters – a theme Anderson has been interested in for a while – in crisp scalloped-edge broderie anglaise dresses with wires sewn into the collars and skirts. A huge padded and ruched under-pannier is seen through a black chiffon overskirt. Those garments speak volumes about women taking up space in the world. “Poetic armor,” Anderson called it, the idea of “escaping into clothes.” He also talked about “rethinking the models” of fashion – a comment you can take to mean both the expanded inclusivity in this season’s casting and the way he is remaking the Loewe business model to act as a “cultural brand.” Integral to that is the focus Anderson trains on the craft culture of the house and the seamless, socially conscious interconnections he makes with contemporary art and artists. “Through this entire year, the idea of craft and making has never been more crucial,” he says. “It engages with people. It shows responsibility and protection of things that people are forgetting are important in this industry. It employs people and ultimately is about the legacy that we pass from generation to generation.” Summing up, Jonathan Anderson is a genius.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Secret of Life is in Art. JW Anderson SS21

This is one of those JW Anderson collections that need no special explanations or expansive moodboards. It’s just so, so distinct to Jonathan Anderson‘s edgy style codes, that you can’t mistake it with anything else, really. Instead of a livestreamed fashion show, the press received a package wrapped in Oscar Wilde quotes: a book of papers and prints, and artful photographs all screwed together – and an enclosed gold coin, embossed with another Wilde quote (“the secret of life is in art”). Wilde proved both the literal and metaphorical means to unlock this collection, because, according to Anderson, “he was able to criticise the world but embrace the poetic reason within it; to look at the political, artistic, environmental landscape of his time and have a dialogue with it”. Equally, the writer’s affinity for the one-liner, he continued, felt particularly resonant during a period when that mode of communication reigns supreme. “This government has come up with so many – and I thought, how radical Wilde would be now with his ability to summarise a moment. Right now, people’s attention spans are very short, so things need to be very concise. And the clothing had to read like that, too: something easily digestible like a tuxedo, but with a puffball skirt belted onto it.” This collection was, essentially, an array of JW Anderson one-liners – not basic, but signature. “You know the look and you know that this girl belongs in this house,” he said of a loose-fitted pleated suede top layered over a panelled handkerchief skirt, or a white satin peplum blazer paired with matching cargo shorts. There was jewellery – enormous oversized earrings based on birdcage mirrors, or bejewelled brooches – which could transform almost anything into the spirit of the season and a wealth of easy-to-wear sophistication. But, alongside the fluid cuts likely to be required throughout spring-summer 2021, there was some exceptional tailoring, too. “It was important to grab onto that, onto things like the way in which we’ve explored tuxedos over the past five years, and really nurture it”, Anderson continued. Goodie!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Humanity and Craft. Loewe SS21

What Jonathan Anderson orchestrated yesterday around the launch of Loewe’s men’s spring-summer 2021 collection (and women’s pre-collection) felt like a long-needed quantum leap into the new world of open-ended possibilities. Where would a designer who’s always talked about Loewe as ‘a cultural brand’ and his links with artists and artisans go? How can the truth of tactility and emotion be felt when digital is the only option? On one level, what he came up with felt like dipping into a 24-hour Jonathan Anderson-curated worldwide live summer festival of arts, crafts, and conversations on Loewe’s Instagram page and website. “My whole thing is to do something in each time zone,” he told Vogue from his London home via Zoom. The program rolled from Beijing time onwards, connecting with (amongst others) crafts-collaborators Kayo Ando, who showed the art of Shibori, paper artist Shin Tanaka from Japan and the basketweave artist Idoia Cuesta in Galicia, Spain. There was music curated by Adam Bainbridge (aka Kindness), who showcased a calming ‘medley’ comprising different versions of Finnish musician Pekka Pohjola’s Madness Subsides, performed by Park Jiha in Korea, performer and producer Starchild, French-Malagasy pianist and bandleader Mathis Picard, and American harpist Ahya Simone. Lots more roved through live chats between Anderson and the actor Josh O’Connor, and, later, a conversation with contemporary textile artists Igshaan Adams, Diedrick Brackens, Anne Low, and Josh Fraught. And on another level, there was the Loewe Show-in-a-Box, a cache of paper-art discoveries delivered as a tactile substitute runway experience to the doorsteps of the industry insiders (it was a grander follow-up to the JW Anderson show-box he sent around last week). Inside was a pop-up show set, a flip-book of photos of the clothes on mannequins, a paper-pattern of one of the garments, print-outs of sunglasses to try on, textile samples, a set of paper pineapple bags and looks to stick together to make your own 3D ‘models,’ and a pamphlet listing Anderson’s art history inspirations. Slipped alongside was a packet of cut-out paper portrait silhouettes he’d had made of Loewe staff members. “I like that they’re kind of immortalized in this moment,” he said.

What about the collection? With their sculptural volumes, twisting, looping, and wrapping forms, the line-up read as Anderson’s push to convey the 3D presence of garments through the limitations of a flat, 2D medium of communication. Some of his references had been taken from El Greco and Velázquez, and his absorption of high Spanish art in the Prado in Madrid; others from his admiration of Issey Miyake’s pleats, and from wanting to showcase the painstaking handcrafts his collaborators bring. The leather-workers helped him evolve a basket-weave top and a soft, suspended bag that folds itself around one side of the body like an apron. The Japanese Shibori print radiates from the side of a tunic.“I have actually really enjoyed this process. It has made me be way more humble about who I am in this industry,” he concluded. “If I look at before the pandemic, I was slightly struggling. I was going out to prove that we are doing something. I think what’s been good about doing this is that I’m closer to the people who make the bags, to the pattern cutter.” Holding it all together in the digital space is turning out to mean more sharing of the glory, less behind-closed-doors mystique, more proof of the humanity, time and ingenuity that goes into making things, he believes. “I think that fashion now has to get rid of all the layers and just say, ‘This is what this brand does, and we’re going to do it with conviction.’ It has to be real. I think it’s bigger than the collection. I’m really proud of it because it’s very honest, it’s our humility. And it’s actually about finding that I love what I do.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.