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.

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.