It’s been almost a decade since Jonathan Anderson was first named the creative director of Loewe, and along the way, the designer has elevated the heritage Spanish brand into a powerhouse—not least thanks to ambitious craft projects that have emphasised the power of the human touch. Over the years, Anderson has turned his roving eye to everything from ceramics painstakingly created by Spanish master potters, to exhibitions of handmade bags assembled from artisanal weaving techniques, to expansive surveys of tapestry and blanket-making traditions from across the globe.
Which is why it may seem surprising that, at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, Anderson is stripping things back to basics—and more specifically, focusing on one of the most humble home objects in existence: the chair.
These are not just any chairs, though—they’re Loewe chairs. Sure, they use the visual language of the classic wooden stick chair—a humble peasant design whose defining features are uprights and legs held in place with a wedge—but Anderson’s team of makers has applied their alchemical wizardry to transform them into something altogether more playful.
You might find them wrapped with elegant strands of thin leather ribbon, or layered with kaleidoscopic shearling fuzz, or tied up in raffia and enormous silver bows crafted from the foil of thermal blankets. A final series of chairs featuring elaborate paper loom embellishments—here made of natural fibres and leather—have been created by the Belgian company Vincent Sheppard in a nod to Loewe’s rich history with basketry. Debuting within the arcaded courtyard of Milan’s Palazzo Isimbardi, these are chairs, but not as you once knew them.
As always, though, Anderson’s flights of fancy are rooted in the fundamentals of home decor, with the designer citing historical designs by Thomas Chippendale, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Franz West as important reference points. “They are functional chairs,” he says of the stick chair bases, adding that their “beauty lies in their sincerity and lack of ostentation.” Anderson is also quick to note that the techniques used on the chairs do not actually alter the chair itself—none of the original shapes or finishes have been modified, for example—but instead, each has been embellished in a way that pays tribute to the legacy of Loewe’s impeccable craftsmanship. “They’re inherently functional pieces of furniture, and the craftsmanship and materials we’ve used to embellish them are equally sincere and simple,” he says. (Simple by Anderson’s standards, anyway.)
Equally notable is the language the chairs share with some of Anderson’s off-kilter designs for the Loewe runway. You might recognise the silver bows from the cult high heels that debuted at the fall 2022 show, or spot a resemblance between the folded oxblood leather cushion backs and the padded bomber jackets that have become a hit with the likes of Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber. “There’s always a cross-pollination between the worlds of the collection and the craft projects,” says Anderson. “On the runway, we’ve been making subtle allusions to art and craft influences, particularly in the way materials are put together and the use of natural elements. Loewe chairs continue the story.”
It’s a story that is rooted in Anderson’s own experiences collecting—his notoriously carnivorous, high-low tastes span everything from 17th-century Delft tiles to kitschy John Waters memorabilia—and also his wry sense of humour. The chairs mark just the latest chapter in Anderson’s sentimental journey of gathering and curating objects that bring him joy. “For me, collecting is a creative process, and a sense of playfulness is always a part of that,” Anderson continues. “My own collection is like a weird diary, where different pieces remind me of particular moods and times. The entire exercise is about working out how things enter into a dialogue with each other, and I like to go beyond conventional objects and combinations. That’s where all the excitement is.”
There’s plenty of excitement in store, with a glitzy launch planned early next week to kick off this year’s Milan Design Week. But as for what Anderson is most looking forward to during his time in the city this year? “I think there’s nothing better than standing in a coffee bar and having an espresso,” Anderson says. Let’s hope he has time for a sit-down too.
Loewe Chairs will be open to the public at Palazzo Isimbardi, Milan, from April 18 – 23.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.