With Loewe, Jonathan Anderson has managed to do something very few other fashion companies have, which is sell you an idea. Time and again he’s referred to Loewe as a “cultural” brand, something about more than merch, and in his seven years at its helm, he has woven a care for craft, a care for the natural world, and an embrace of culture and art into the basket tops and crystal-clustered Puzzle bags he and the Loewe teams produce.
When the brand launched its men’s spring 2021 collection earlier this summer, it did so with a “show in a box” and a 24-hour livestream that was in part about fashion, but more so about people, conversations, and ideas, spotlighting the artisans that make Loewe’s products and the collaborators, including Tyler Mitchell and Kindness, who infuse their own creativity into the company’s output. A vinyl record played the sounds of the brand’s Spanish factory. In creating a universe of Loewe-isms, it has become the rare fashion company that can sell you something with nothing—by that I mean, sometimes the best Loewe thing to own is a thought.
But what thoughts to transmit in “a moment that is incredibly noisy?” That’s what was on Jonathan Anderson’s mind during a Zoom call from Loewe HQ in Paris. His Loewe spring 2021 womenswear collection is being presented not with a runway show, but with a three-meter “show on the wall” box that was delivered to the homes of the brand’s typical fashion show audience this morning. Inside are posters of the spring 2021 collection, the sheet music for Thomas Tallis’s 1570 choral work Spem in alium, a paper scroll of models wearing the new collection, a roll of wallpaper designed by Anthea Hamilton, a paint brush, scissors, canvas tool bag, and small scented ceramic. A folio details the images, the making-of, and the collaborations for the season. Tomorrow, for the show, there will be video content of Anderson in conversation with Kaia Gerber, a performance of Tallis’s choral piece arranged by Kindness and featuring Robyn, and the debut of a film by Hillary Lloyd about the making of the box.
Photo: Courtesy of Loewe
“It’s actually just stripping something to the point,” Anderson says. “Yes, it’s a big box, but it lets you decide when you want to view it,” he continues. “Obviously we have to do this interview, but you know, for people they might not be in the mood this morning to deal with that. They’re probably cursing my name seeing that the postman’s come!” he brakes for a smile and a laugh. “But at the same time they can digest it when they want.” In that, again, the delivery here isn’t just the box or the brand’s new ruched and poufed dresses, worn by a skater boy with a jellyfish bowl cut. The delivery is what you do with it. What you take away. How you enjoy it.
“I feel like because we are in this moment where we have too much information, ultimately, and there is so much noise that for fashion to actually coexist in the landscape of health, politics, society—if we’re not careful we could become irrelevant. This is not a new phenomenon. It has happened before,” he warns. “I think fashion is in a bit of a paradox at the moment where it is trying to understand how to be able to communicate without looking detached. I think fashion needs to just be a little bit more quiet and less dramatic to me.” So in this strange season, Loewe will speak softly with a big message.
Here, some background on the season’s biggest box of big ideas.
Photo: Courtesy of Loewe
It’s About Celebrating Collaboration
“It has been possibly one of the biggest undertakings I’ve ever done. Just the people involved and then tomorrow for every component there is like a whole category of content with it,” Anderson says. “The entire collection was designed in lockdown. I really wanted to kind of focus on this idea that we would use what we had, so use the leathers we had, use fabrics we had. When we did craft pieces, we just went to local people who were working from home, so it could be the whole basket look or the hand embroidery. The whole thing is really about obsessions, kind of like curiosity and obsession. I think it’s just an important moment, and I think it’s such an exciting moment to be able to try new things out. It might work for some people, some people might hate it, some people are having FOMO of missing shows. I don’t know. My whole thing is like I’ve tried to do it in a comprehensive way that it can be kind of an object that is a time capsule that you can keep one part of or give away the rest.”
He continues: “As much as this is like a very elaborate box, I feel the collection merited this because the factory, the craftspeople, the design team, that PR team, the marketing team, this entire company has come together to produce something in probably one of the most complicated moments. ... You can’t be here, so you’re going to see it as a 2-D image anyway. So I would rather you fall inside the box.”
The Fashion Is Blown-Up to Real Proportions
“I wanted this idea that conceptually you could see the looks at a 1-1 scale, so the posters are 1-1 scale. I was trying to work out a way that people could actually get the impact of the look in front of you. This idea that you could pin it to your wall, kind of like, use your imagination and have an emotional context to it,” he says.
But there’s more than one way to use a poster. “You could cover backs of books with it. Maybe someone might use it,” he wonders. “With the tool bag, I made it so people could use it as a bag. Each component has got a purpose.”
It’s Not a Pointedly Not a Fashion Show—And It’s Better For It
“I think it makes me question the show system in this moment,” Anderson says when asked about the success of his at-home mailers. “I think you can still sell a lot of clothing, a lot of bags, and you can get your messages across without a show. Supreme as a multi-million pound business. It doesn't have a show, so to say that a show is going to save fashion in this moment, I think, is wrong.”
The traditional fashion show system—12 minutes for a runway, 15 for a backstage scrum of journalists and questions and chaos—does little for Anderson right now. “There are so many things that we don't really talk about when we do a show because it’s kind of like bang! everyone's backstage and they're on to the next one,” he smirks. “It’s kind of like going to Pizza Hut for an all-you-can-eat buffet. That’s what fashion week is like: You gorge on it, then you go to the next one and then you go to the next one. But there are all these amazing people involved, and what I wanted to do was make sure that each person had an adequate amount of time within it.”
Working this way, trying to synthesize his ideas, has allowed Anderson to reconnect with design in a new way. “There is something that I have learned in this process that makes me love fashion more,” he stresses. “With some of the garments, we spend incredible amounts of time in terms of engineering.” That’s why the garments are shown in a myriad ways: On a scroll, as a poster, on a mannequin. They are also modeled, for the first time in a long time, by people of all genders and body types. “It’s not archetyped,” he says of the voluminous dresses, floral lattice pieces, and balloon-leg suits that make up the bulk of the collection. “You go to something and you put it on if you like, it doesn't matter who you are.”
Loewe's new Shell bag. Photo: Courtesy of Loewe
In the End, Printed Matter Matters
By existing as an offline object, the Loewe box aims to capture your full attention—no text alert interruptions. Anderson has always had an affinity for the tactile—it goes hand-in-hand with celebrating craft—but he stresses that it’s also important for us to document our time. Of the big box, he says it’s like “relicry:” “I actually think it's a really good moment to celebrate print. I think there's so much scope in print; we’ve been printing books for millennia. There is something, always, in the physical object.” \
As for the value of a physical object in these increasingly digital times, well, you can actually put a price on it. Some of Loewe’s menswear spring 2021 boxes are being resold for up to 20,000 euros each.