Jonathan Anderson’s prismatic view of Spanish house Loewe is propelling it to new frontiers – including a mighty Middle East expansion.
When Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson visited the Spanish heritage house’s Madrid factory for the first time, it was, as he recalls, a craftsman’s dream come true. “There’s nothing more exciting than when you see people make something in front of you,” he says, still visibly wondrous of the work that goes into taking a black leather sheet and transforming it into a three-dimensional object. “It’s a quiet brand,” affirms Anderson of Loewe, founded in 1846. “We’re not flashy, but the make is. Like a very good vintage car.”
When Anderson was handed the Loewe creative director baton from outgoing designer Stuart Vevers in 2013, he decided to shake things up. “There was an excitement to do something differently,” he recalls of the change of air. If customers, who were drawn to the historically traditional look and feel of Spain’s oldest house, were suddenly “confused,” as Anderson recalls, he was swift with reassurance. “People are protective of Loewe. For me, it was important to get the craftspeople to own the project, let themselves go, and design the things they have always wanted to make.”
Of course, it is very much Anderson – an alumnus of London College of Fashion who branched out as a menswear designer in 2008 – who dictates in which direction the skins are cut and the embroideries stitched. Today, if Loewe is consistently drawing an eye to its luxurious savoir faire it is perchance due to Anderson’s prismatic and cultural view of the house. At Loewe, where he considers craft to be “the ultimate luxury,” and the “backbone” of the entire brand, he set out to strike a balance of classicism and forward-thinking. For FW20, he marshalled couture codes – caped coats and appliqued shirts (with geese, no less), through to accessories – diamanté jewels on black patent boots, floral-print scarves, and oversized elephant bags. The standout? Men’s clothes with the audacity to pull from ceremonial, noble codes of yesteryear, which today, are often hastily associated with women only. The dare has been dared.
“Loewe is going to be a leader again, not a follower,” comments Anderson, the undisputed man of the house. Now, these fancy clothes will have a space all to itself. This fall, Loewe has opened a second store in The Dubai Mall, which will be dedicated to womenswear, signaling the first time Loewe menswear will be available in the region (located at the original store) with the collection of men’s ready-to-wear, leather goods, accessories, and shoes. It’s part of an overall Middle East expansion of the brand, which will also see a Loewe store open in Kuwait.
Anderson, who was born in Northern Ireland to a rugby-playing father and a secondary school teacher mother and raised on the Balearic island of Ibiza, harbors a curatorial approach to all things he considers interesting, of which fashion and craft are at the forefront. Today, on appointment by the prime minister of the UK, he is on the board of trustees to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It’s a journey not learned overnight; rather, it is one that starts as an apprenticeship of the past. He debuted in menswear in 2008 and within two years, had expanded his namesake brand, JW Anderson, to include women. After being called to the helm of Loewe in 2013, within three years, he founded the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize. It is the first international award for contemporary craft and the Loewe stores are abundant art-filled spaces featuring storytelling pieces across all milieus. Anderson believes that there is a fervent desire for the handmade and all that it stands for. “I think with consumers, people want that. They want to know that there is a thought process, a humility in it, an honesty to it.”
Perhaps, what is most satisfying about Loewe is that under Anderson’s direction, it has not transitioned like all too many brands, but rather, it has somersaulted a life cycle, all the while managing a shift in generational perspective. Loewe encapsulates true Spanish romance, mystery in surprise, and respect for undying craft; throw in Anderson, one of Ireland’s luckier risk-takers, and a quote from the great Spanish writer Cervantes comes to mind, “He who loses his courage, loses all.” Clothes make the man for those who have the foresight to see as far as the past.
Originally published in the Fall/Winter issue of Vogue Man Arabia
Photography The Bardos
Style Pierre-Alexandre FillaireHair Sadek Larjane at The Wall Group
Grooming Thomas Lorenz at Home Agency
Set design Ella Sinelle
Production The Artflow
Casting Troy Westwood
Lighting and photography assistant Loc Boyle
Style assistant Nina Meziani
Model Anis at Success Mode