In an exclusive interview, the British designer and creative director of Loewe ponders if the future of fashion really is digital, and discusses everything from running a brand at his kitchen table to that Harry Styles cardigan
With standard fashion calendars upended and digital presentations the new norm, the past few months have demanded innovative approaches to the making and showcasing of clothes. Something that seems to have presented little problem for Loewe’s imaginative creative director, Jonathan Anderson. Rather, he seems to be relishing the challenge.
Ahead of the launch of Anderson’s curated set of online events to mark his men’s SS21 collection and women’s precollection for the Spanish luxury label, the designer speaks to Vogue about running a brand from his kitchen table, that Harry Styles cardigan and if the future of fashion really is digital.
What was the biggest challenge in creating this new Loewe collection?
“Both collections — JW and Loewe — were conceived in my house on a computer. It wasn’t until several weeks ago that we shot everything, when the rules changed. In a weird way, it’s been the most personal and domestic collection. It’s very tabletop. I feel like I’ve been working in my kitchen for several months. It’s made me be more entrepreneurial and more creative, where your limitations are important.”
How will you be presenting it?
“We’re doing a 24-hour online calendar [of talks and workshops]. It’s about people in all parts of the world, not just Europe [but also] Shanghai and New York. I’m working with musicians, basketmakers and craftspeople. It was like, ‘How can we democratize this process?’
“We’ve put everything we can into it. It’s a time capsule. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with [British children’s TV show] Blue Peter’s time capsules; burying them in the garden and then digging them up. Yes, fashion can be about escapism — that can come from the clothing — but the presentation should be about what is actually happening and the realism of that.”
Beyond the virtual collection launch, you’re also sending out a show-in-a-box. How did you go about translating the physicality of a fashion show to that format?
“I’ve been so inspired by watching people make things, or playing board games at home, and being with family and friends, or even being alone. I’ve spent lots of time on my own in the house, and [I started] to make maquettes [scale models], and work with [my] hands to come up with solutions. The point of this box is that it gives the viewer something to do in their own time. You might open it, you might not. It’s not a forced thing.”
Do you think there’s a future in which fashion could go completely digital, or will the in-person experience always be vital?
“At one point, this idea kicked off that shows were going to disappear, and it actually became the complete opposite. [Brands] became content machines. I don’t know. I’d like it to become more personal. In this moment, I can talk directly to consumers. It’s been empowering to hear about problems with product, or what people want, and work on social media methods to engage [with] everyone. I would love to produce loads of boxes, but what I can do is make things digitally available. For example, within [the box] there is a pattern you can download and you can make the garment yourself.”
What was it like to be behind the viral TikTok movement that followed Harry Styles’ appearance in your JW Anderson cardigan?
“[It was] the most humbling thing […] with fans trying to recreate it for themselves. That’s probably not because of JW Anderson, it’s because of Harry Styles. But I was like, ‘OK, I feel I have an obligation to share that pattern — I should give it away.’ It’s been enjoyable watching kids knit the sweater, or even make sweaters for dogs and cats. Those are the positives that come out of this weird synergy.”
You’re emphatic about celebrating all forms of craft through ‘luxury’. Has that intensified during the pandemic?
“Luxury is sort of a Pandora’s box. We’re in a moment where there’s a lot of reckoning. I do feel Loewe has a cultural responsibility to make sure that we keep leather craft in Spain and increase its development. There is value in that. Luxury has a long way to go, as in all industries. But it’s important, as an employer, to keep these skillsets going.
“During the pandemic, myself and Pascale Lepoivre, the CEO, we have had to work every evening to make sure we are being as responsible as [possible] to keep the talent. The priority for me, number one, is doing everything I can to protect jobs.”
How do you think the industry has responded to the changing world?
“Because of the global situation, it’s a matter of doing what is right for your brand. It’s not about competing. No matter the group or brand, it’s a moment to be proud that you’ve been able to do a collection and show it, no matter the format. What the future will bring? Who knows? This is like working in real time. Yes, it’s about a collection that will come out in future, but it’s also about relishing the now.
“In fashion, we often jump to the idea that we want a revolution, but sometimes the smaller things are the revolution. There are many other problems that need to be tackled now: diversity, equality, environment. It’s a time for fashion to be a bit quiet, and work on what is the best method going forward. It doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the fashion calendar tomorrow. It might mean a longer process.”
Should fashion finally set itself free from its obsession with the new and always wanting to be current? And is nostalgia for the past something we should also be wary of right now?
“I’ve been more humbled by the past. It could be branded as nostalgic, but there are things to be learned from history. It doesn’t mean we need to continue with them. Fashion went through this postmodern moment, and it’s happened in art as well. And now, all creativity has come to this brick wall. Our only opportunity is to go over it. But [to do so] you might have to leave things behind. I like a fight. I work better in a struggle because it makes you feel like you’re alive. You’re not coasting through — It’s about this idea of defiance, going forwards.”
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Originally published on Vogue.co.uk