Fashion is most certainly in flux—nobody quite understands what to wear, how to dress, when to show, or in what form. But, as our phygital Fashion Weeks begin to draw to a close, Jonathan Anderson has presented a fabulously impactful array of clothing through his idiosyncratic new format: the show in a box. “What is going to make us get through this pandemic? Creativity,” the designer reflected. “And where is fashion going? I don’t know. I don’t even know what’s going to happen in the next two weeks. This is fashion for now. For the eye.” It certainly is.
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The “Show in a Box” got upsized
Since Anderson decided at the beginning of lockdown that, this year, he wasn’t interested in showing on a catwalk, he has been responsible for the invention of social media’s favourite alternative: the “show in a box”. Variants of the idea were dispatched to present his menswear Loewe collection in July, and his JW Anderson offerings last month, but for spring/summer 2021, he took it one step further. Enormous, Steven Meisel-printed folders filled with life-size silk-screened posters of models dressed in his looks; rolls of wallpaper and sachets of paste alongside Loewe-branded brushes and scissors (“I’m particularly glad everyone has a new pair of scissors”); beautifully bound sheet music for the Thomas Tallis choral symphony that informed Adam Bainbridge’s soundtrack for the collection… it was both entirely arresting to receive, and Instagram gold.
“I wanted to find new ground and ensure that my team feels safe,” explains Anderson, “as well as making them feel as though everything they have worked so hard on, whatever way we show it, is going to make an impact. I also feel as though I have a moral obligation to find newness right now. We are all trying to find purpose in this moment—and I don’t save lives, but I am an employer, and right now fashion could easily become irrelevant as an art form. The arts are being hammered by this pandemic and we need to not look detached. This, for me, is a way that we can enjoy this moment without being insensitive. We have a cultural responsibility to spread our wings.”
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Anthea Hamilton got involved
The British artist Anthea Hamilton, with whom Anderson collaborated in 2018 for a performance at Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries, returned to the Loewe fold for spring. She created an artwork that was transformed into rolls of wallpaper with which enthusiastic editors could decorate their homes (the print also appeared in one of the looks). “For a long while I’ve been looking at how fashion works, like how ideologies, references, quotation, activation of materials, craft, the speed of ideas and production occur. I think about these methodologies as I might also look at other cultural or historical spaces,” explained the artist. At Loewe, “everything is so uncompromisingly and particularly itself: concepts; pieces; references; collections; collaborations; the nature of a decision as a creative act. It’s significant this happens at Loewe, their years of skilled making offer a psychic bind to that, a palpable sensation of physical intelligence—nothing ever feels nostalgic, it’s always happening in the present.”
The wavy boot form that she worked with—an oblique reference to the 17th-century figure Jeanne des Anges, an Ursuline nun whose “story of disastrous and uncontrollable desire” informed Ken Russell’s seminal 1971 film The Devils—is a recurring motif. “Its recurrence allows for flexible meanings to be attached to it.” But, beyond inspiring industry figures to renovate their living rooms, she was interested in the idea of memorialising this year. As she and Anderson began discussing the project, the world was experiencing a “very intense public moment: the Covid-19 pandemic; increased awareness in the Black Lives Matter movement and climate crisis discussion… That the weight of all that’s happening might manifest as a reason to produce a wallpaper design is surreal, but more interesting than for aesthetic purposes, it calls for a different way of thinking. It’s interesting for me; it’ll be a physical marker, a memento at least, of a jumping-off point.” Anderson added of Hamilton: “She’s so intelligent that sometimes I feel embarrassed. She’s one of the most influential and underrated artists of our time.”
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The clothing was an extreme explosion of volume
Conversations about fashion’s relevance in this moment regularly revolve around the commercial success of the tracksuit—after all, wearing almost anything else feels almost entirely abstract for most of us. But, rather than settle into loungewear, Anderson’s collection proposed quite the opposite: a celebration of explosive silhouettes and architectural volumes. “It’s about loving fashion,” he says. “I’m sure trackpants are trending and selling right now, but I think everyone in this industry came into it for one reason: clothing.”
The fabric development that often factors into Loewe’s innovation was made impossible by the pandemic, so instead, newness came through techniques in form—often executed remotely and shared among the team via Zoom. Rather than restricting the form, boning was adapted to push pieces off the body by supporting undulating orbital volumes, or suspending the shoulders of broderie anglaise dresses so as to transform them into trembling, angelic wings. Caged floral bodices with ballooning sleeves; knitwear knotted into new shapes and embellished with hundreds of sequins; clouds of tulle and streams of hand-embroidery conspired to create a visually rich collection. “My team have done wonders in their homes. I credit this to them,” Anderson smiles. “I am just the conductor who has said, ‘We are going to do this, no matter what.’”
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The casting was an all-inclusive, intimate affair
Modelled by the likes of Jadé Fadojutimi (“probably the most important young painter right now”); the photographer Sunny Suits; musician Adam Bainbridge, aka Kindness; Anthea Hamilton; the tennis player Holly Fischer; the artist Hilary Lloyd; and a handful of Loewe’s favourite models, this was a friends and family affair. “I wanted to use people that I knew, who I find inspiring—and I think it’s the most accurate way I’ve ever shown clothing,” notes Anderson of his multi-generational, multi-gendered approach. “I don’t give a hoot who wears it; I don’t care if you are male or female, what ethnicity you are, what gender, what size, if you’re short or tall or big or small.”
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The accessories are excellent
Who knows when we’ll next need new handbags—but hopefully it will be spring, because Anderson has proposed some excellent options. At its core, Loewe is a historic leather goods house, dedicated to innovation in that field, and a new shape—the Shell tote—has taken the work of ceramicist George Ohr as the starting point for its form. “I think he probably experimented in the late 19th century with a lot of hypnotic drugs,” Anderson laughs. “He made some of the most important American ceramics, and they were physical, folded and creased.” Anderson tried to translate that moulded physicality to leather by treating it like clay—and what resulted is gorgeously covetable, and surely one of next season’s standout shapes.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.