When Jonathan Anderson joined Loewe as creative director in 2013 and put craft at the center of his approach, not everyone grasped his fascination with basket-weaving, ceramics and tapestries — exalted in Loewe boutiques and via the annual prize he established.
Now, everyone is picking up knitting needles, fixing up their homes and taking up gardening. During a walk-through of Anderson’s spring women’s collection for Loewe — daring in its extreme balloon shapes, and impressive in its varied and intricate handiwork — he reminded a visitor that needlepoint and other handiwork were use as a rehabilitation scheme during and following the horrors of the First World War, by artists and soldiers alike.
No doubt Anderson’s Zoom instructions to his teams and Loewe’s network of artisans — many of them in Spain, now battling a second wave of COVID-19 — was a balm during lockdown, for he gave them license to stretch their knowhow into some of the biggest, widest and sturdiest dresses, coats, skirts and pants you might see this season outside of a Comme des Garçons show (scheduled for Oct. 19 in Tokyo, incidentally).
It’s plain that the coronavirus crisis, despite all the constrictions and uncertainties it has wrought, has supercharged Anderson’s penchant for daring silhouettes, and ignited his imagination in terms of alternative ways of showcasing them, as much as he loves the runway. “You know I went to drama school — I love a show!” he noted. The show-in-a-box he distributed in July for his spring men’s and women’s pre-collection was a hit, generating 3.5 times the interaction on social media than a runway show.
His latest box, as big and as heavy as a folded massage table, contains all the tools necessary — glue, scissors, a brush, a tool bag — to wallpaper a room with life-sized posters of real people and a few celebrities wearing the spring collection, a border trim of his look book, or a loud, surreal wallpaper by British artist Anthea Hamilton. This box has gone even more viral, Anderson reported gleefully, and layered on top is oodles of related cultural content on Instagram and YouTube, including a redo of a 16th-century piece of choral music the designer loves.
Anderson also installed 34 looks on rows of mannequins in a vast gallery, and they resembled chess pieces from some fantasy fashion board game: here a dress of stiff doily lace swirling skyward from the hips and shoulders; there a wide and imposing medieval smock, like something you’d see in a Velázquez painting at the Prado. There were a few slim knit dresses with cascades of knotted panels, but extreme proportions dominated: bulbous sleeves, bulging pant legs and bubble skirts that can barely fit through a doorway.
Commercial? Hardly. Memorable? Absolutely. Anderson said he wants to mark this unprecedented pandemic period with strong fashion that makes people dream, recalling how the 1941 image of a model in a nip-waisted suit by Irish designer Digby Morton in fabric from the Red Cross, a bombed-out building behind her in the wake of the blitz on London, is etched indelibly on his brain.
“I love fashion. I love making clothing and I want it be fun,” he said. “Sometimes we need the drama. We’re in a dramatic moment.”
And sometimes you need to sell something. Loewe plans to produce the showstoppers, but Anderson’s teams also created more approachable interpretations of the looks in the showroom downstairs, so you can dream about hoop skirts and infanta dresses while wearing a camel coat with slight bulge at the wrists — or even double-cashmere sweatpants.