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Loewe’s Revelations

The womenswear was straight-out beautiful, seductive even, while the menswear was a sublime exercise in awkwardness.

Jonathan Anderson’s solutions to the challenges of a Covid-bound fashion world have so far been scaled-down acts of ramped-up genius. He’s given us a show in a box, a show on a wall, a show in a tube…and now a show in a book, highlighting three collections: winter for men, pre-collection for women and the Eye/LOEWE/Nature range. A book might seem like the most linear alternative to a show for communicating the essence of a fashion collection, but this new endeavour turned out to be Anderson’s unruliest. That was because Joe Brainard, the latest of the designer’s aesthetic inspirations, was such a protean talent that it was a challenge to encompass his underappreciated genius in one single box – or book. But Anderson and M/M, the Parisian design duo he collaborates with on Loewe, gave it their bloody best shot.

Brainard wrote poetry, painted, drew comics, made queer and political zines, generally poked the bear until he died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1994. When Michael Amzalag of M/M brought him to Anderson’s attention, it was an immediate where-have-you-been-all-my-life? moment for the designer. “How static, how regimented our lives seem by comparison,” he wondered. All the queer mavericks who’ve inspired Anderson – from Gilbert and George to David Wojnarowicz – have undoubtedly been kindred spirits, but something about Brainard struck a deeper chord. His contemporaries lauded him for “transforming the everyday into something revelatory.” It’s easy to translate that into finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, which has been a fashion touchstone for the past few years (too often a justification for banality). Brainard took it a step further: he found the ordinary in the extraordinary.

Now look at what Anderson has been doing for Loewe. He wasn’t sure why he had trousers on his mind with his latest collection. An ordinary item of clothing to be sure, but he said, “I liked the idea of perfomative trousers. I was looking at people like Bowie, and musicians and dancers who wear costumes.” You’ve never seen trousers more performative than the pair Anderson showed, huge flags of fabric which, when extended to their full length, were a canvas for Brainard’s imagery. “I have to believe there is going to be an optimism within clothing by the end of this year,” Anderson insisted. “My whole thing is, if I make it someone will wear it. I don’t care if only one person buys.”

You might assume that a similar spirit of optimism colours the entire Anderson/Loewe proposition, given how challenging it is, on the surface at least. But something was going on here that was a lot more deep and meaningful. The womenswear he showed was straight-out beautiful, seductive even. “Weirdly in womenswear, I have been slowly moving towards a more sexual desire,” Anderson conceded, in one of those oblique declarations that sets up more questions than it answers.

“It’s very chic,” he added.

The menswear, on the other hand, was a sublime exercise in awkwardness: cropped, stretched, oversized, shrunken, soft, hard - or at least as hard as a pair of strapped, grommeted bondage trousers in black leather, which sat amidst the collection of fluid knits and voluminous shearlings like a mourner at a wedding. They struck a harsh chord, which was, of course, exactly why they were there. On a more pleasing level, Brainard’s mastery of collage was reflected in the wonderful pansy prints, and a gorgeous shearling intarsia-ed from pieces of leather printed with his images. One of his whippet paintings was reproduced on a tote that will gladden the heart of dog lovers everywhere. It was perfectly bookish, which meant it was perfectly suited to Anderson’s concept.

He imagined the book he and M/M had created stuck away on a bookshelf (it will actually be produced for sale in Printed Matter in New York, with all proceeds to the charity Visual AIDS) until someone took it down and found his look books inserted front and back, art and clothing in perfect symbiosis. So the book functioned as a kind of set for the presentation of the collections.

But the package Anderson sent also included a t-shirt, printed with all the looks from his Eye/LOEWE/Nature collection. It seemed like a logical jump, from show in a book to show on a body. Where next for a designer whose imagination truly transforms the everyday into something revelatory?

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