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Sometimes, it’s possible to feel a great big thought bubble rising up over an audience as a show is taking place—a palpable women’s consensus hovering right there, without a word being spoken. A huge, happy one, with cartoon rays of pleasure shooting out of it, bobbed up at Loewe, unmistakably carrying the words, Ah! It’s going to be okay!

Whether or not Jonathan Anderson has deliberately set out to fill the Phoebe Philo void in fashion, his Fall collection for Loewe stepped in and did that in its own way—without the kind of “Old Céline” mimicry that has sophisticated women rolling their eyes. The proof: his knack for smoothing away the contradictions between simple, clean silhouettes and craft and texture, between a sense of now and an honoring of history. “It’s quite strict and crafted,” he said. “Craft under a microscope. It became about reducing things. How do we see silhouette?”

In his own JW Anderson show in London, he had talked about “stripping away noise” to concentrate on fashion. The same applied at Loewe: There was no complex set to wander around, no special furniture or literature to try to appreciate—just a black-tiled floor in a white box. Only, on one wall, easily missed in the crush to enter, there was a line of Dutch, French, and English portrait miniatures painted in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

The relationship between these tiny exquisite works of art and the collection was both in the encouragement to look closely and in the tangential free association laced through shapes and fabrics. There were poet’s-sleeve blouses, coats with Puritan collars, severe black waisted coats with leather piping, dresses which started as cream roll-neck sweaters and ended in handkerchief-fine white cotton lawn.

You could see something courtly in a sweater smothered in pearls but worn with stiff denim jeans—if you chose to. The finale piece, an incredible white lace-edged dress with zigzagged lappets and pearls pouring from the trumpet sleeves of a black linen coat might indeed have been studied from a portrait of a Cavalier lady—yet on second glance, it was “only” a shirtdress.

This is the thing about the creative plane on which Anderson has arrived: What he’s now doing is modern clothing, not costume or “concept.” The reason the center holds when there’s so much variety going on is that Loewe is grounded in great product—see the coat with the simple chic of the “dripping” collar—with a brilliant frisson of eccentricity tossed in.

Unforced and easy to understand, it was one of the most highly smash-and-grab-able collections of the season so far.


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