In a quiet presentation, Loewe holds one transfixed… and breathless
A large undecorated room. A perimeter of closely-seated guests. An opening in the floor in the centre of the fair-wood space. A gentle flow of spare, percussion-free music (While my Heart is still Beating, from the London-based Italian electronic act Not Waving and label mate Romance). Against this orchestral/electronic track—so stark, yet soaring in parts, it’s almost devotional—the models walk unhurriedly from the basement to to the open floor. Each measured step allows the clothes to be viewed in their structural or fluid brilliance. Nothing is as severe in simplicity as the music suggests. Each outfit evinces that there is a difference between dressing and wearing. Each, a study of balance, texture, and the unlikely. This could be Loewe’s strangest collection, and strongest yet. This is not an exploration of what having fun again would be like. This is fashion as if it never took a hiatus; expressive, as stylish life goes on. This is Jonathan Anderson reaching a climactic career apex.
The first dress immediately opens the eye. A sculptural beauty through the manipulation of form, less of fabric: a maxi-length tank dress, and it is from the back, until you are pulled in at the waist in front. There is a boxy protrusion, marsupial, with a flat top, like a shelf. Then another dress—this time the distention diagonal, across the torso. The next, the waist stretches outwards to the left, and ends with a point. The creation of bodily contours where none exist is, of course not new. We have seen them at Comme des Garçons, but these are not “bumps”. They are, rather, contortions inspired, as the show notes state, by the work of the 16th century Italian painter Jacopo Carucci, better known as Pontormo, who was known for his ‘mannerist’ style, a deliberate disassociation with the naturalism of High Renaissance art. Perhaps more obvious are the petal-shaped shoulder-covers (they’re not quite capes) and the drapes on dresses that seem like fabrics mimicking random brush strokes.
It’s all artistic, with an artful choice of the structural and the soft. Although one senses a clerical purity to the collection, the clothes aren’t so serious that they can’t delight in what may be considered aberrant, even slightly mad, or, as Loewe states, “completely hysterical”, which, amid the season’s sex-as-pandemic relief, is antithetical and a welcome break. So few collections of the season here in PFW or elsewhere, really, push the limit of compositional possibilities. Hard and soft, ruffled/ruched and flat plain, all not confined by either or; they just pair, like heady romances. Similarly, Mr Anderson is not restricted by how fabric and body must come together with a certain spatial expectation. Check the bubble varsity jacket! Close to the body or protrude, or balloon, they all seem natural. He is fearless too in the order of things. The back-to-front outers may look switched, but when worn, do not look out of whack. Even a detail as common as the vertical slit in the skirt: He shows that high they might be, but by framing them with a simple flounce, they need not be crude inverted Vs—arrows pointing unambiguously to the genitalia!
And the footwear! A surrealist wink-in-the-eye. Jonathan Anderson kicks up his heels—quite literally—to reveal that in the rear of two innocent front straps are heels with a base of egg shells… broken and the white and yolk spilled out! Or, the whole heel in the form of a bottle of nail polish—red, no less. Or, even a striped birthday candle, complete with the flower-shaped holder! Are these Japanese shokuhin sampuru (food models), elevated to luxury fashion footwear or are they something more subversive? For all the seriousness of the craft that Mr Anderson feel Loewe should perfect and promote, there seems to be a playful, cheeky underside too. Even the most ardent of inventiveness could gain from smile-inducing humour. If the music of Not Waving that soundtracked the show is analogue sounds in swirling arpeggios, then Loewe is floating on similarly high notes.
Screen grabs (top): Loewe. Photos: gorunway.com