Jonathan Anderson speaks with a kind of conviction that makes it easy for you to understand why he’s regarded as one of the most compelling designers of his generation. Delivered at rapid-fire speed, Anderson’s thoughts are direct, profound and they immediately establish his drive for hard work.
“I strive not on pressure, but ambition,” the 32-year-old Irish tells Harper’s BAZAAR during our chat in a colonial-style suite in Singapore’s grand old dame, the Raffles Hotel. In town to inaugurate the island state’s first Casa Loewe store, Anderson’s boyish demeanour belies his ambitious outlook. “I always want to be 10 steps further than where I am. That is what keeps me going. I’m only fine to stop the minute I know I’m there.”
Anderson’s passion—coupled with immense talent—has aided him well in his fashion journey. While studying to be a menswear designer at London College of Fashion, he worked alongside the late Manuela Pavesi, Miuccia Prada’s “close collaborator,” as the brand’s visual merchandiser. In 2008, he debuted J.W. Anderson with a menswear collection that soon amassed a following for its radical approach to dressing the male form. Two years later, on the strength of his gender-fluid designs, he added womenswear offerings to his eponymous line. After a series of stints with Topshop, Sunspel and Versus, Anderson landed the biggest coup of his career: The role of Creative Director at the LVMH-backed Loewe.
Anderson’s radical remake of the Spanish leather goods giant has been nothing short of bold and gutsy. He reportedly spent a year ironing out the gears and systems that would move Loewe onwards while under his charge. “My job for the brand is to do it right and to build a structure that can survive on its own. We need to be obsessed about what the DNA of the brand is. The brand has to speak,” Anderson adds. “That’s the point. And my point is, I want to make Loewe one of the biggest names there is.”
The result? An inventive overhaul that stretched beyond the mere redesign of the logo, packaging and store interiors. Anderson instilled an off-beat aesthetic rich in luxury and forged two distinct identities for the menswear and womenswear lines.
“I wanted a dichotomy with the two. I see the Loewe man as someone younger than his female counterpart. There needs to be some sexual tension,” Anderson reveals. His debut menswear collection for Loewe in 2015 set the tone with imagery and clothes that continued Anderson’s own vein of feminised masculinity. “Menswear is a smaller market. It has to be product-based. We articulate the menswear collections through presentations, so it’s about building up this story. It’s like a kid’s book. But it’s also about humour. There is a dark humour in the women’s collection too, just not as obvious.”
This playfulness is certainly obvious in fall/winter 2016, turning up on the women’s runway in the form of a quirky cat-shaped pendant. Anderson refers to the collection as a “curate.” “I wanted to be able to place that woman, the audience and the clothing in a curated space. Every single thing became part of this painting. You could get into a woman’s world. To me, it was a world that you could make up,” Anderson explains.
And conjure, he did. In the artfully decorated Salles Miró of Paris’ Maison de l’UNESCO, Anderson showed off Loewe’s expertise with precision. “In my head, it’s like a Swiss doctor’s wife in a very expensive apartment looking at the Alps and listening to whatever she wanted,” he adds. Lean coats, flowing dresses and flare skirts that came pleated or with handkerchief hems formed the core of Anderson’s informed wardrobe, around which he piled on sculptural leather corsets, heavy gold necklaces, metallic chains and earrings. Each bag is a talking point—substantial in size and decorated with spit-shined hardware. One version of Loewe’s signature Amazona bag came in tweed; its ends overflowing with fringe.
Anderson’s tenure at Loewe so far is “an exercise of non-compromising.” “I do what I want to do with it. I feel like I haven’t compromised since I’ve been there,” he observes. “And I refuse to.”
Often described by fashion critics as a “builder,” Anderson’s approach to design is very much about planting, mixing and editing various elements into outstanding shows. “It’s nice to be able to do that in this day and age—some sort of a dialogue.That’s why I’m a Creative Director,” he says. In his refusal to pinpoint a particular decade, movement or influence to categorise his work at Loewe, Anderson side-steps pigeonholing his clothes. It’s a democratic discourse on dressing. Welcome to Anderson’s universe. Feel free to explore.
- By Gerald Tan
- This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore.