According to Vogue, 29-year-old Anderson’s breakout moment “…came in February 2011 in London, when he showed a mod paisley silk pyjama suit topped with a white rubber clerical collar as the centerpiece of his second women’s collection” and he was hand-picked by Loewe to step in as Creative Director to regenerate the brand’s success.
There was a time when the Chinese consumer wanted nothing more than to carry bags made by Loewe, because they pronounced the name of the Madrid based luxury leather house in the same way as ‘Louis Vuitton’ and somehow saw the two as the same.
In 2007 Stuart Vevers, who had mostly been known for “It” bags and sportswear, came on board as Loewe’s Creative Director and the leather goods brand went through a series of unpredictable collections, some better than others. It seems to The Fashionable Truth that Stuart never really found his own way in the luxurious world of LVMH. As the TFT’s Editor in Chief Daniel Jeffreys observed, “It can be difficult for talented young designers who may have run their own labels suddenly finding themselves in an environment where obedience to the holy code of each House is of paramount importance”.
All the same, Vevers turned Loewe into something noticeable at a time when almost everyone had forgotten about the brand, giving its classic Amazona and Flamenco bags a modern twist that was widely applauded. Mark Holgate wrote in Vogue about Vevers’ new position as Creative Director as “a distinct upward shift for Loewe on the fashion world’s temperature gauge.”
Before Loewe, Vevers had been successful at several brands such as Givenchy, Louis Vuitton and Mulberry, and is now the Creative Director of Coach, which presented its first Ready-to-Wear collection at NYFW earlier this month. The collection was a huge success for the American luxury brand, giving Coach a cool new ‘street’ look that has placed the brand in a new light.
Anderson is renowned for his ability to play with gender roles through radical fabric choices. His Men’s Fall/Winter 2013 collection startled critics with its silhouettes of dresses paired with ruffled high boots. And that makes the Northern Ireland born designer an intriguing – some would say bizarre – choice for a Spanish leather goods house with a history stretching back to 1846.
Will Loewe become more J.W. Anderson, incorporating his famously androgynous designs? Or will Loewe’s sacred codes be drummed mercilessly into Anderson so that we see a new, more conservative side to him?
We won’t know the answer for a while. The brand will not be taking part in the Fall Winter 2014/2015 Fashion week in Paris this March and the first showings of Anderson’s creativity will be a “presentation” of menswear in June, according to Adrian Wong, head of communications for Loewe in Asia Pacific.
Behind the deal to bring Anderson to Loewe was Delphine Arnault, the daughter of the LVMH chairman and chief executive, Bernard Arnault, and Pierre-Yves Roussel, the chairman and chief executive of the LVMH Fashion Group.
“When Delphine and I first met Jonathan, we immediately felt that we could help him express the full potential of his innovative brand,” Mr. Roussel told the New York Times last year. “And while discussing our partnership better, it became clear that his understanding of all the creative facets of a brand and his capacity to transform tradition into an exciting vision for the present could also make him the perfect creative director at Loewe.”
Anderson is hoping to draw on his Irish Catholic roots and to what he sees as the rich artistic heritage of Spain.
“I remember going to Barcelona with my mother, scaling the Sagrada Família. I can’t imagine what it must have been like when Gaudí built those buildings that looked like they came from outer space,” he said, referring to the still-unfinished basilica that Antoni Gaudí began in 1882.
“I love Spanish culture,” he continued. “I like the ceramics there. I love the color tone. They have had some of the greatest artists, like Picasso — and they also had Balenciaga.”
Loewe must be betting that Anderson is going to make “the difference” if its gigantic new statement store in Shanghai is anything to go by. The shop is built on a scale comparable to that which used to be reserved for the flagship branches of major banks (and we all know how that ended up).
If luxury and fashion is heading for a nosedive as China slows and other markets like the US and Europe remain cautious, then a niche brand like Loewe might be harshly exposed to the inhospitable climate. Equally possible, it might just do very well indeed, as Chinese consumers continue their flight from logo and head toward brands that allow for greater self-expression.