It is said that in times of crisis, creativity thrives. Now, during an unprecedented pandemic, no other designer has demonstrated that creativity as clearly and as compellingly as Jonathan Anderson. In July, while other designers fretted about how to replicate the urgency and energy of an IRL fashion show with a URL presentation, Anderson chose to go in the opposite direction—old-fashioned instead of newfangled. His solution ultimately felt the most thoughtful, exciting and rife with potential.
To show his spring/summer 2021 Loewe menswear collection, Anderson put together a box containing a flip book of the looks as well as cutouts that could be assembled into 3D forms, along with fabric swatches, a pop-up book of what would have been the show set, a mini record player to play what would have been its soundtrack, and a paper pattern that could be constructed into a true-to-scale replica of Look 23.
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It was a brilliant concept that could only have been conceived in this difficult time—instead of being restricted by the limitations of the moment, Anderson found a way to do something truly new. “I just feel like we’re now in a moment where fashion needs to change. It needs to be about exploration and I feel no matter what happens, we, as humans, need tactility; we want tactility. I think it’s important for me to get the viewer involved,” says Anderson of his decision.
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It makes sense. His Loewe has resonated so strongly because it has always been intensely personal, intimate even. Anderson feels that that needs to be emphasised now more than ever. “For me, it’s about the customer first—building close relationships with the consumer so that we can tell personal stories about what we’re doing, and be able to take away the noise and focus on the quality of the products.”
The Loewe stores have been an integral component of this storytelling process. Each flagship location is called a Casa Loewe and like a home, each has been filled by Anderson with a lovingly curated mix of art, furniture and design objects. Rich, warm and eclectic, these are not your cookie-cutter luxury boutiques. “The idea of Casa Loewe is a living space—it’s reflective of the collections. It’s a moving space; more of a home landscape,” says Anderson of his retail concept. The brand finally brought that concept to Southeast Asia with the recent opening of the Casa Loewe at ION Orchard.
He continues: “I think it’s very important that we have an emotional connection that tells the narrative and that is the lifestyle element of the brand; the idea of the Loewe Foundation—in the store, we have parts of our collection, for example, Betty Blandino ceramics, Nicholas Homoky ceramics, a Josh Faught tapestry. It’s really trying to get people into all the different mindsets we have in the brand—we’re about supporting crafts, and we want the consumer to be able to touch and feel the quality we put into the products.”
Now, the Loewe consumer can not only touch and feel the results of those “different mindsets”, she can smell it too. Taking another step on his path of building Loewe into a full lifestyle brand, Anderson recently released Loewe Home Scents—a collection of 11 fragrances inspired by a Victorian herb garden.
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“For me, it’s something that’s part of the bigger picture of the lifestyle of Loewe, the idea that Loewe is a 360-degree brand,” says Anderson.
Scents such as tomato leaf and juniper berry were translated into candles, diffusers, matches and soaps. “It was really about stripping down— each ‘flavour’ has its standalone scent; it’s like going back to the roots of the make, the craft and the smell,” says Anderson of the approach he took.
Craft, of course, was something he fiercely championed the moment he arrived at Loewe. Anderson has worked with artisans worldwide, spotlighting and preserving ancient or dying craft techniques. He took the patronage of crafts further when he launched the Loewe Craft Prize in 2016, lending the brand’s sizable platform to young or little-known craftsmen of all backgrounds. Each festive season, the House also engages the estate of an Arts and Crafts icon for a collaboration—this year’s honorary being American artist Kenneth Price—casting old masterpieces in a new light for a new generation. In trying to reach a new generation and a different group of consumers, Anderson has also dreamed up LOEWE Paula’s Ibiza, a permanent annual capsule built on the archives of the legendary Paula’s Ibiza boutique. As befits its ’70s inspiration, the collections take as their starting point a romantic kind of escapism—a quality he believes fashion should deliver, especially now. “It’s important to keep that element… we have to keep that fantasy,” he says. And it is this combination of hopeful fantasy and emotional authenticity that makes Anderson one of the most exciting designers today who is pushing the boundaries of what fashion can be and mean.
All images courtesy of Loewe