There’s no denying that Jonathan Anderson is one of the most talked about fashion designers today. The Irish designer first rose to fame with his own label, J.W Anderson, which broke the fashion mould with its conceptual unisex collections. Since then a slew of awards have followed along with hot collaborations with the likes to TopShop and Versus.
Things really took a turn, however, when he was appointed creative director of staid Spanish luxury brand Loewe (in turn LVMH also took a minority stake in his label). Not content with just creating a new aesthetic, Anderson spearheaded a complete reinvention including a new logo, sexy advertising campaign and cultural collaborations with artists and the like. Much like Hedi Slimane has done at Saint Laurent he has put Loewe back on the radar by appealing to a new generation looking for a modern take on luxury.
Of course his designs have helped propel the brand back into editors closets. His men’s wear collections feature everything from slouchy raw-silk tunics and turned-up jeans to knitted palazzo pants, each imbued with his signature androgynous touches. His woman, meanwhile, is powerful and bold dressed in blouson blouses made from patchwork leather, lame pleated skirts and wide legged trousers as seen in the recent autumn/winter 2015 collection.
The accessories celebrate the brand’s iconic soft leather which has been transformed into covetable must-have designs like the best-selling Puzzle bag and colourblock Flamenco cross body.
I met Anderson on a recent trip to Hong Kong, where we spoke about naysayers, fashion and how the fashion industry needs to change.
It’s almost been two years since you joined Loewe. How has life changed?
I work much faster, that’s for sure! I’ve always done way too much so it’s not that much different. My whole thing is that I cannot sit still. I always need to be fueled up which is why the fashion industry suits me.
The job at Loewe wasn’t actually on the cards until after LVMH invested in your brand. How did it all come about?
I went undercover to the Loewe factory as journalist for ID magazine. I didn’t last 10 minutes before I was ratted out. Truth is I just fell in love with the people. I met the master modeller and leather developer, and I thought this brand can be huge. Loewe was never on my radar but when I went there I could not understand why it had never been articulated in a way that it wasn’t global. It was never on a scale where it was blockbuster. I questioned if I wanted to do this, but once I started creating a book of ideas I couldn’t stop.
Your rebranding of Loewe has been quite controversial. What did you want to achieve by taking such a drastic approach?
I did a year of research before I started and realised we had to remove the date and city location from the logo. One of my skills is that I am very marketing directed. For me I am not a designer’s designer; I’m not Alaia. I respect him but what we do is different. My job title is creative director. I see a full picture and clothing is just one aspect of building a brand. I need the whole thing.
Loewe is primarily known for its leather goods – why was it also important to beef up the ready-to-wear collections?
Marc Jacobs fundamentally opened up the idea that clothing was needed to articulate leather goods. It came from a moment in the 1990s where he changed our thinking on old houses. I’ve learned throughout my lifetime that you need a character to tell a story – a bag cannot be isolated. People need something tangible to hold onto, and ready-to-wear creates newness.
Part of the rebranding has also included cultural collaborations. Why?
When I was looking at what other brands were offering, none of them really dealt with this idea culture. I wanted to work out a way of harnessing the idea of culture but not in the way that we just do art. For me it’s about creating an apartment in which everyone lives in and there is an edit of objects that fundamentally changes through which they can experience the brand
As a designer, how do you know when you’ve created a successful collection?
Fashion ultimately imitates life and in life things don’t always look good together from the outset. I know a certain style is good when I feel uncomfortable with it – those looks turn out to be the best. You have to challenge yourself with things you don’t like or don’t know
For the most part the press love your work, although you’ve had critics call your work derivative. How do you deal with it all?
I had to stop reading what people write. I have to be me. I want the brand to be big, and do everything to make it happen, but I don’t want to change who I fundamentally am. You either like what I say or don’t.
I am bored of the days where we are obsessed with the idea that certain designers owned things. You own nothing. Fashion is not about that. It’s about re-appropriating things, it’s how you edit it. That’s exciting today. Whatever I design I put it out in the world and I move on. I don’t own it – the people who buy it own it. It’s about how they wear it.
What’s your ultimate goal at Loewe?
The idea of relevance means that you can be rejected tomorrow. The brands that do the best are fundamentally brands that are very honest which is difficult in commercial world today. My biggest goal within the next five years is to get to the point we will do a show and the day after the collection is in store. It means we are designing for the moment that is going out. That’s my dream.
What’s your advice for aspiring designers out there?
When you work in something creative it’s such an emotional process. You spend your entire life doing something, and channeling your energy into it. It’s an addiction and it becomes very personal. It’s important to keep focused and look ahead. It’s like driving a car at night – focus on what you want and don’t run off the road. Don’t edit yourself, and do what you feel. Don’t design something to tick boxes.