A pitch black room; the only faint light illuminating vases of wilting orchids; music coming in disconnected fragments, starting with the soundtrack from Sunset Boulevard.
And then lights up at Loewe! And the models started to walk one of the claustrophobic areas that designer Jonathan Anderson said afterwards were deliberately pumped with alternatively hot or cold air.
Whatever was going on?
A series of shapely black dresses of beauty and grace calmed the nerves. There were even jokey extras, as giant straw hats for this Spanish-owned brand had loaves of bread painted on.
The essence of this collection was a series of different outfits, each charming in its own way. Dresses were dramatic as a floor-sweeping gown, or pretty in girly pink. A full-skirted brown leather skirt was paired with a wasp-waisted yellow leather jacket; a Fair Isle sweater partnered with a dotted chiffon skirt. From start to finish, there was a great deal going on.
Backstage, Jonathan Anderson tried to define the kick-off point of his inspiration at an antique shop in Miami: “That line is very positive and very chilling at the same time. I think, in a weird way, that’s what I wanted – the idea of extraterrestrials being put into an environment where the temperature drops from 27 degrees to 15. This idea is like going into a cellar (where you feel) a heightened emotion and I wanted something that had drama.”
The heat started creeping up as soon as the Sunset Boulevard soundtrack began playing, followed by Buddhist bells and what seemed like other totally random pieces of music, ending with Linda Scott’s I’ve told every little Star.
The first impression was of simply lovely dresses, shaped to the body of these noble Spanish women with hair drawn back from the face.
“But it’s not about Spain,” the designer corrected me. “For three years we’ve tried to take a heritage brand and open it up to the world because it cannot be a domestic brand. It’s not about that, it’s about taking it and trying to use lots of different influences. The music takes you through this. The woman goes on this journey and I wanted people to come in the dark to a show because, ultimately it’s a fashion idea.”
Then there was the little booklet on each chair, containing a list of all the rare orchids as well as photographs by Lionel Wendt of people and places.
It finally dawned on me that this was a show of elements, both the inspirations and the clothes themselves. And of course the bags, so strong and intriguing, each one different as it swung on the model’s hand.
So that was the real story of the show: individualism. Like it, buy it or reject it. A customer’s right to choose and a plethora of objects on parade.