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.

Stay Curious. JW Anderson Resort 2021 + Men’s SS21

From all the resort and men’s collections we’ve seen so far this summer, it’s JW Anderson‘s take on a fashion show presentation in the times of COVID-19 that feels most different and somewhat suited for the current circumstances. Is it possible to convey feeling and tactility without being physically at the show? Of course yes – just see those marvelous press-kits that Jonathan Anderson has sent out to all the press and friends of the label. He also tells the entire logic behind them in this video. Created with available resources in rather limited conditions, men’s spring-summer and women’s resort 2021 are a playful celebration of what being restricted can mean and spawn in creative terms. The divide between wardrobes is intentionally blurry, but still present. What in menswear takes a slouchy feel in womenswear gets a classic sense of poise and elegance (something Anderson examined so masterfully in his show last February). Presented on fictional characters – enlarged personalities with heads illustrated by the super talented Pol Anglada or masked by Bertjan Pot – the collection juxtaposes notions of pragmatism and playfulness within a context of cozy domesticity. Volumes are round and enveloping, or elongated and sleepy, with blown-up details that keep their function in off-kilter scale, and unexpected touches providing jolly, frivolous diversions. Dresses, capes, pillow sweaters, cropped trousers, elongated jumpers and loafer mules reiterate and recon-textualize tropes of the brand’s DNA. Patchworked jockey coats sprout patch pockets as roomy as bags. Sleeves get excessively long, trailing to the floor. Military capes spawn an excess of buttons. Long knits have an home-spun immediacy and a cozy intimacy. Slits create movement on tailored pieces. Pompoms (!) draw the giddy contours of a plain sleeveless jumper. Blanket stitching underlines the addition and accumulation of elements. Texture, either real or suggested by way of print on fabric as well as knit, adds another layer to the story: brocade impressions, tapestry motifs, targets, stripes, flowers, Anglada’s erotic, blown-up faces. A sentiment of youthful, care-free amusement is here – and that’s we all really need right now.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Loewe x Paula’s Ibiza in New Dehli

Here it is – Loewe‘s collection that traditionally wins the summer capsule competition of sunny, lounge-y resortwear. Jonathan Anderson continues his rhapsodic celebration of holiday wardrobe with a collaboration designed in partnership with legendary Balearic boutique Paula’s Ibiza. Of course, any summer vacation might be impossible for most of us this year due to the lockdown and financial struggles, but who said we can’t dream a bit and get inspired? This time around, the collection has evolved from a capsule into a fully-fledged men’s and womenswear offering, finished off with accessories including bucket bags, hats, a fragrance and, of course, those immediately recognisable technicolour sunglasses that have become one of the Spanish label’s signatures. “Ibiza has always been very dear and personal to me: it’s my deepest tie with Spain, harking back to childhood and adolescent memories,” Anderson explains. “I’ve always said that Paula’s Ibiza embodies the spirit of letting go. This collection of ecstatic abandon is part rave, part cyberdog, in acidic neons, faded olive greens, and sunrise orange.”. Back to capture the spirit of the collection once again was the extremely talented 19-year-old Gray Sorrenti, who photographed its vibrant pieces on a cast of models, dancers, stunt artists, and performers on the streets of New Delhi – the Paula’s Ibiza collection are about voyage, never about one place – before much of the world locked down. Now, the joyful, almost euphoric images offer a moment of escape: “As a positive and energising message, I believe it’s very apt for now,” concludes Anderson. Note: 40 Euros from each piece sold will be donated to educational projects supporting socially vulnerable children, following an initial gift of 500,000 Euros.

Look-book photos by Gray Sorrenti.

Dress To Impress. Loewe AW20

Dressing to impress—I think that’s an exciting thing,Jonathan Anderson declared backstage of his latest Loewe show. “Looking at building new types of silhouettes that can work in an abstract way. Trying to take a risk, maybe in my own self.” Taking risks is a trouble for many designers in Paris, so it’s great to see at least someone addressing that. What he began with – the volumized “entrance-making” shapes he showed in his JW Anderson collection in London – was followed through with inspirational conviction at Loewe. The collection at some points looked odd, but in a good, refreshing way. This line-up wasn’t obvious. What were these brocade dresses, gathered by Takuro Kuwata’s ceramic works? How to capture the shoulder-extending device from which caped-back sleeves were suspended? Anderson said he didn’t quite know exactly how he’d arrived at those ideas. “But sometimes it’s nice to feel vulnerable when you’re doing a collection – that you don’t know what the outcome is going to be before you start.” In pushing across the frontiers of the norm, Anderson relies partly on spontaneous curation. “Exaggerating by illusion” is one way he described the process. Yet the thing about Anderson is that his creative push is also part of his incredibly prescient long-term strategy to turn Loewe into what he’s called “a cultural brand” (he’s reconstructed it into a fashion home for the art-owning and gallery-going international clientele). This as well gets reflected in Jonathan’s fashion. Echoes of 17th century Spanish art – especially Zurburan and Velasquez – come in the subtle Spanish semiotics Anderson embeded in the collection. Maybe there was a hint of flamenco in the raw-edge tiers in a gray flannel coat and the triple-fluted sparkle-dusted sleeves of a ribbed-knit dress. But then, some of the dresses had volumes that made you think of medieval-wear we know from miniature illustrations.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Play. Loewe AW20

At Loewe, things took a fun twist. That gesture of holding something in front of the mirror to see how it looks – we all know it. You could just see it the boys wearing draped lamé dresses fixed to the front of their tailored outfits on the autumn-winter 2020 runway. “I was thinking of ’50s couture—and a child, trying something on. What do you look like in the mirror?”, Jonathan Anderson explained. The two themes which have been running through this menswear season were bound together in one collection: carefree boyhood and the unprecedented presence of ideas about haute couture in menswear. “A fantasy wardrobe,” Anderson called it. “Playful. Optimistic. Pretty boys.” The dresses were a kind of signifying accessory, attached, apron-like, with leather straps. They said a lot about the way Anderson has always worked in the studio, experimenting with garments in free-association. The designer also put guys in coats which had “couture structures, on a woman’s block.” There was a white fit-and-flare shearling, a high-waisted princess-line coat. The zebra-print double-breasted caped silhouette, Anderson imagined, could easily become a superhero look. The childlike-couture perspective (also big at Francesco Risso’s Marni) led him to blow up existing Loewe mini-leather goods’ elephant shapes to become oversized tote-toys, to sprinkle crystal bling on sweaters, dangle diamanté jewelry on black patent boots, to weave a coat-dress from floral-print scarves. Anderson pointed out his own favorite—a shirt appliquéd with a pair of geese. Random and eclectic, don’t care. The point is that everyone, gender-regardless is welcome to pick and choose from what Anderson designs and delivers at Loewe.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – There’s Optimism. JW Anderson AW20

For the autumn-winter 2020 season, here’s where you should go for the best coats: JW Anderson. At his name-sake label, Jonathan Anderson offers gorgeous blanket-wrap poncho-like coats, made in a number of variations: classic grey wool, in paisley print, in hounstooth… some come accessorized with heavy gilt chains swathed as belts (the designer also used them as shoe jewelry and as sewn-on half-necklaces). A pictogram of a house on fire, a print that appeared on knits and in the general imagery of the collection, was Anderson’s take on AIDS activist and mixed-media artist David Wojnarowicz, who sprayed these on derelict East Village buildings in 1982. Anderson is known for bringing almost forgotten art to the ambiance of his shows – both for his own label and at Loewe. But this rediscovery struck a deeper chord for the generations protesting against establishment intransigence in the face of apocalyptic crisis. It resonated in Anderson’s remark at the end of the show. Amid the anguish of the AIDS fatalities in the 1980s and 1990s – which Wojnarowicz documented, fought, and eventually succumbed to – “it felt like the end of the world,” the designer observed. “But it wasn’t. As much as some of it’s really heavy, there’s an optimism. There will be a solution.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s: Jonathan Anderson’s Loewe

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Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

Jonathan Anderson‘s Loewe.

The most succesful brand rebirth of the decade? Jonathan Anderson’s take on Loewe,  so the story of a sleepy Spanish leather house becoming one of the hottest labels in Paris. Anderson’s vision for the label defines the role of a creative director: everything, from the campaigns (photographed by the designer’s favourites: Steven Meisel, Gray Sorrenti or Jamie Hawkesworth) and branding (revived by M/M Paris) to store interiors and inspiring, visual communication, must be consistent, garden-fresh and, simply speaking, beautiful. But Anderson’s Loewe also thrives thanks to its desirable, yet non-mainstream products. The “Puzzle” bag became one of those timeless it-bags without even one, shouting logo on it. The clothes fascinate with their incredible, artisan detailings. Loewe shoes are the fine balance of pretty and ugly. Eclectic accessories (like Dumbo ears hat or cat face necklace) and capsule collections that rotate around unexpected themes (the best-seller “Paula’s Ibiza” line; the tribute collections to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William de Morgan). The designer often compares himself to a curator, when explaining his role at Loewe. And this metaphor really fits.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

 

Aristocratic. Loewe SS20

“Aristocratic” is one of the words Jonathan Anderson used to describe his spring-summer 2020 Loewe collection. Indeed, there was something very royal about the earthy parachute coat-dress, multi-layered lace collars and the sublime, white night-gowns. Historical dressing was the key for Jonathan this season, and he conveyed that idea like no one else. Anderson isn’t new in putting craft and handwork at the heart of Loewe, and this time he pushed extremes of craftsmanship luxury to ethereal heights. For the collection, he moved into the realms of “a different kind of craft, which is ultimately historical,” he said. “I looked at the 16th and 17th centuries, where the craft was in the tiniest thing . . . where you had to rely on precision.” Chantilly, guipure, and marguerite lace; drawn threadwork; sprigged voile shapes. There’s romance, and there’s impressive, hand-made process behind all those details. Here’s another aspect of the collection: Loewe is a Spanish house. The aristocratic Spanish-ness is present as well in the collection, even in the pannier-hip dresses he sent out. It’s a shape that goes in line with Spanish cultural significance (think Velázquez’s 1656 Las Meninas portrait of the Spanish royal family). All his revivals of lace and linen fit into that context too. The marvelous fabrics were depicted in the paintings of Goya and Zurbarán, all exhibited at Madrid’s Prado Museum. Summing up, this collection is a feast for the eyes.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.