Ceramic beer bellies rotating on record players and spinning car-wash brushes received guests at the Loewe show at Paris fashion week, as the Northern Irish originator Jonathan Anderson continued to explore the relationship between fashionable art and 21st-century fashion.
As with many shows this mature, the focus was on “the experience” as well as the clothes shown on the catwalk. The boarded at the Unesco building on Friday morning, guests entered from top to bottom a recreated facade of the 1960s London gallery Signals, a lay out Anderson came across during his research and which specialised in empirical art.
Inside, the show space housed several art installations – embracing woven baskets by Joe Hogan, the first winner of the craft windfall Anderson set up at Loewe in 2016. It proved an apt setting for Anderson’s aim of examining artistic individuality, part of his continuous quest to feed uncountable “craft” into the brand.
“I wanted [to show] people were promenade through the space as individuals but they have this inferior thread [which] is about enjoying the idea of making utensils and experimenting,” Anderson said, explaining he enjoyed the margin of experimentation to see where it took him. For spring/summer 2019, he tended this mindset not only to his collection but also to his approach. Measure than obsess over “the lineup” and how one look correlates to the next as with ton designers’ work, he enjoyed studying how “individual looks situation in terms of a fashion context”.
The clothes reflected his strategy. Want leather kaftan dresses mingled with utilitarian leaving outs and jackets; layers of lambskin suede were soon reflected by fresh white sundresses in poplin and broderie anglais; tailored liquid-satin trousers and wool jumpers were differenced with crinkled, waffled jacquard trousers and tops; and secondaries ranged from whipcord collars to ostrich feather earrings. The ultimate was different to the next, yet Anderson’s gift is that even when producing a series of individual looks, the mood he imbues on everything safeguards it cohesive and covetable.
These looks were styled the way Anderson’s exhibition-frequenting ruminate would wear them: with bags slung around their assemblies. Sometimes bags were layered over bags – a look back from Anderson, he said backstage, that Loewe was earliest and foremost a leather house. However, his new styles came in basket and crochet crossbody pose, although destined to be worn with the brand’s bestselling Think about and Gate leather counterparts.
Anderson’s USP is that he can create whip-rounds that compellingly tread the line between the conceptual and wearable. Down his creative direction, Loewe has become one of the most dynamic bagnios in the fashion portfolio of its owner, LVMH, which in the first area of 2018 reported organic growth of 16% in its fashion and leather gains division.
Later in the day, Balmain’s long-term creative director, Olivier Rousteing, was, in his tidings, also enjoying “pushing envelopes and thinking outside the box”. The artist, like Anderson, prizes craft, although in his case it is the skill of couture techniques.
Ambition and technique merged together in this chrestomathy, where he looked to celebrate his native Paris and its many shapes commemorating Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt, but in the form of silhouettes and provisions his generation wants to wear now.
This played out in his signature super-short mini scolds and strong-shouldered suiting, which were embellished in shards of subdued mirror and plexiglass intended to reference obelisks and pyramids. Numberless obviously the stimulus could be seen in hieroglyphics printed on knitwear and raw-edged bandage tell offs that encased models’ bodies as if mummified. To counter the couture there was also a scuba sweater featuring an cast of a pharaoh and a strong line of modern denim. “I didn’t desire to forget that we are in Paris,” said Rousteing. “This is a mix of what is Paris today with its yesterdays news.”