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Perfection, polish, precision, pared down — there were a lot of p-words at Jonathan Anderson’s show for the LVMH-owned house of Loewe. To quote Larry David it was prettay, prettaaaay good.
Anderson has had a terrific AW19 season; he already stole all the plaudits in London where he does his second job as creative director of his own small namesake brand. But where, at JW Anderson, his clothes were voluminous and wide, at Loewe the mood was more exacting and the mood was more refined. All the blousey craft elements, the “hand” touches that define his vision of Loewe, were still present, but they were more carefully integrated rather than patched through the design: a knitted sweater was woven with an organza skirt; Elizabethan lace panels hung in jabots from a shirt.
If there were Tudor references here they were deliberate. Anderson’s starting point for the collection had been the 16th-century miniatures by Nicholas Hilliard at the National Portrait Gallery. “They were the selfies of their time,” he said blithely of their influence. “But also, I love the idea of something small, around which you have to pay attention to see the beauty of the art.”
His set, with its shiny parquet flooring and bright white empty walls, mimicked the same space in the gallery, while the Vivaldi on the soundtrack helped set the tone. Anderson had given himself a challenge, to show the clothes in an environment in which they couldn’t escape scrutiny. He would have to do the best he could.
Like the miniatures, the excitement here was in the details — the sculpted tailoring, the dreamy coat shapes, and the slightly bustled skirts. A pared-back style has been a growing trend in Paris where some of the most thrilling designers — John Galliano at Maison Margiela and Rick Owens among them — have focused on a purer line. In each instance, the collections have reasserted those designer’s authority as dressmakers and tailors while reminding us also of what design’s all about. Anderson’s Loewe was no exception: it stood up to closer scrutiny, but no two looks were quite the same. Neither were they boring — only Anderson would put a paisley scarf dress with a grey rib-knit trouser and a scarlet elfin loafer — which I loved. Anderson has a gift for commercialising “ugly” that recalls Phoebe Philo while working at Celine. And his taste is persuasive: a Weekend at Bernie’s blazer in multicoloured checks, tricorn Twenties-era millinery and feather boas made for the wild card wonders here. Meanwhile, of the handbags on which the Loewe business is built, there was a new “Lantern” opera bag, in crocodile and calfskin, and a mini Lazo handbag in a shiny box calf.
Working on two collections and two brands simultaneously, Anderson’s challenge is to keep the two apart. He refers to his process as a “conversation”, where one idea, or style, might inform or reflect the other. In previous seasons the line has been a little blurry. This time his two visions were quite clear. Meanwhile, as Anderson will tell you, Loewe, is doing “very very well”. His empire is building in momentum. And his brands are going from strength to strength. Another p-word — purchase. This was an unqualified success.
Jo Ellison will be hosting the FT’s Business of Luxury Summit in Madrid on May 19-21. For more information visit ftbusinessofluxury.com
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