It’s Pronounced Lo-ev-ay

Spanish fashion house Loewe is tackling more than just the runway with Creative Director Jonathan Anderson.

Creative Director Jonathan Anderson

Creative Director Jonathan Anderson.

Fashion is a branch of culture. Whether in excess or strife, fashion houses around the world always manage to mirror cultural happenings in their seasonal collections. It’s definitely a huge challenge. The days of exclusivity are gone and accessibility has opened the doors, welcoming everyone to be part of an industry that, just a few years ago, existed in glossy fashion magazines. It takes a delicate hand to master the intricate relationship between the clothes they make and their buyers.

Someone who understands the discussion between massive audiences and an upscale brand, alongside the value of today’s media landscape, is Loewe’s Creative Director, Jonathan Anderson. For the Irish-born 32-year-old, Loewe represents everything he and other fellows in the industry look for and dream about in a brand. That is why it was strange that the 170-year-old Madrid-based fashion house, known for its exceptional expertise and craftsmanship of leather goods, barely had a presence on the global fashion landscape.

Things changed quickly following LVMH’s decision to appoint Anderson as creative director of the house in September 2013. Within three short months after the announcement, a revised and updated new version of their logo was already all over the Internet; printed publications featured ad campaigns that used images from a 1997 editorial shoot photographed by Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue; and a new highly-engineered handbag, the Puzzle, was introduced.

Loewes Miami Store

Loewe's Miami store is equal parts retail and gallery space.

Paul Nash Dead Tree

Paul Nash, Dead Tree, Romney Marsh (1931-1946).

It all came together through a variety of visual genres, with immediate response, increased brand awareness, and abundant commercial success. His vision of accustoming the consumer’s eye to collections, materials, and other lifestyle objects became the simplest solution to a dialogue that seemed broken.

“Ultimately, fashion to me is more of a culture, it’s not just about clothing. It’s about the art, the craft, and how people live today, and carrying through each of these elements to what is in our boutiques and retailers,” he said early in 2016. “And to create that visual platform, we have been working with M/M Paris, Steven Meisel, and Benjamin Bruno.”

Responsible for bringing Loewe across the Atlantic, Anderson opened the house’s first-ever US boutique in the heart of Miami’s Design District in 2015, with intentions to expand throughout America. The US flagship will also serve as the headquarters for the Loewe Foundation, supporting the efforts of continuing interest in the brand’s cultural commitment to the arts. On display in the high-ceilinged, luminous open space is an 18th-century hórreo (granary) that was discovered in a small town between Galicia and Portugal. The 36-foot-long stone barn, imported exclusively for the store’s interior, is meant to convey the legacy and heritage of the house, while bringing the value of memory and history together.

Loewes Flamenco Knot Bag

Loewe's Flamenco Knot bag pays homage to the brand's Spanish roots.

“We wanted to show a fragment of Spanish history in a modern way: abstracted, displaced, a building inside of a building,” says Anderson. “It shows how the information codified in architecture acquires new meaning when it travels, and something that served a specific function takes on a new character in a foreign landscape.”

Besides designing and overseeing four ready-to-wear collections per year—two for men and two for women—plus an inter-seasonal women’s Pre-Fall collection added to the list this past September, Anderson’s work at Loewe steps outside of the traditional fashion realm. “Chance Encounters,” inaugurated during Miami’s Art Basel 2015, was his first curated exhibit for the Loewe Foundation and it showcased a mix of historical and contemporary works including sculptures from Anthea Hamilton, photographs by Paul Nash, ceramics from Lucie Rie, and paintings from Rose Wylie. Each piece formed a nexus between past, present, and future, in the store’s modern context. The narratives converged and unfolded, showing Anderson’s inspirations behind some of the house’s ad campaigns and ready-to-wear collections.

In 2016, in collaboration with Photo España—the largest photography festival in Europe—Loewe exhibited the first-ever large body of work from muse, model, political activist, and photographer Tina Modotti at its Miami boutique. The image archives—in silver and platinum prints—displayed a comprehensive overview of Modotti’s 10-year oeuvre as a photojournalist of socio-cultural movements. A variety of still lifes and scenes of indigenous populations complemented the prints, alluding to her magical and experimental momentum.

Maquetry In Leather

Cigar boxes, notebooks, and clutch purses from 'Maquetry in Leather.'

Next up was “Marquetry in Leather,” conceived and directed by Anderson, and first showcased at the 55th edition of Salone del Mobile in Milan last year. The project introduced Loewe’s innovation in traditional bookbinding and woodworking. By fusing those two methods, it created variations of multiple graphic leather motifs, some of which were sourced from Japanese wood screen patterns and archival silk prints that Anderson found in Hong Kong. He used them to create precise inlays on the surfaces of oak furniture pieces. The visually appealing, yet complex, marquetry process requires the utmost skill, especially when it comes to the cut, fit, and assembly of each leather fragment that’s been bonded on the object’s flat exterior.

“Loewe has the most amazing craftsmen and a beautiful heritage. We wanted to explore the possibilities of applying the technical expertise in leather craftsmanship to furniture design,” says Anderson. “The technique involves complexity and a lot of work, as each piece needs to have the same thickness so that the final result is smooth and even.”

Although Anderson’s first collaboration with textile master John Allen was intended to be only a capsule collection, the extraordinary painterly beauty and striking use of bold colors in Allen’s landscapes and bucolic designs, woven or printed on summer accessories—beach towels, bags, totes, and scarves—is one of the best mergers between the fashion house and artisanal crafts.

Loewes Fall Winter Show

Backstage at Loewe's Fall/Winter 2016 show.

With the undeniable ability to engage creatively with a multifaceted company like Loewe, Anderson’s four-year tenure at the house not only revived the legacy but also elevated its aesthetic to art world standards. “I see Loewe as a house with a cultural landscape more than just a fashion brand,” Anderson said when asked about the evolution of the brand and how he envisions it in the near future.

He strongly believes that everything he has created should be public domain, and while he’s conscious of the commercial needs in the industry, his modus operandi will remain unaltered, smart, and up-to-date.

[©All images courtesy of Loewe]

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