Once reserved for Spanish royalty, Loewe has become one of fashion’s most exciting brands under Jonathan Anderson, staying true to its principles of leather craftsmanship and artistry.
The year 1975 marked the beginning of a new era in Spanish society. Following the death of General Francisco Franco, Spain began its transition from a dictatorship to a liberal democratic state. Loewe, one of the country’s top luxury fashion brands at the time, took part in this drastic surge in democracy with the creation of a versatile sporting bag that was elegantly suited to the new lifestyle of the Spanish woman: the Amazona. Signalling the desire for ease of life, the Amazona was the first “24-hour” bag to combine style and functionality, with its softness, simplicity and utility meant to take you from day to night.
The satchel design of the Amazona provided more than enough space for all daily essentials, while the wrap-around zipper concealed everything gracefully. At the time of its release, the bag was constructed from unlined suede and meant to embrace feminine strength during this new chapter in Spanish history. Even with the changes that designers have since made, the Amazona continues to hold its position as a top-performing silhouette more than four decades later.
Not only is the Amazona a testament to the timeless sensibilities of Loewe, but it also speaks on behalf of the brand’s everlasting mission of beautiful craft. The roots of Loewe date back to 1846 when a group of leather craftsmen made a name for themselves producing excellent goods and accessories like tobacco cases. Their precise leatherwork was welcomed by upper-class women seeking fashionable and quality handbag options. The collective became so adored for their skill that King Alfonso XIII of Spain event granted the house of Loewe the official title of Supplier to the Royal Court in 1905. His wife, Queen Victoria Eugenie, was a frequent visitor of the storefront on Príncipe de Madrid street during the early 20th century. The current King of Spain’s mother, Queen Sofía, has also been seen several times with Loewe handbags, showing just how ingrained the label is within the hierarchy of Spanish society.
Since Franco’s insistence on Spain’s neutrality during World War II and his tenure kept the country isolated, the Amazona was Loewe’s official introduction to the rest of the world. Little did they know, however, that this unrivalled leather craftsmanship had already been deep-seated within the DNA of the brand for more than a century. Their artistry had long been synonymous with luxury and was even seen as a catalyst for their initial distinction as a luxury fashion house.
For the first century of its existence, Loewe exclusively dealt leather purses and handbags before they began producing their own ready-to-wear collections. Despite the overnight success of the Amazona and other silhouettes like the Flamenco, Loewe was still left searching for its own identity in post-dictatorship Spain. This was still the case when LVMH acquired Loewe in 1996, seen as nothing more than a heritage label that once upon a time specialized in leather goods, joining the likes of Louis Vuitton, Berluti and Celine.
In the period that followed, Loewe switched hands from one designer to the next. Narciso Rodriguez, José Enrique Oña Selfa and Stuart Vevers all left their mark in one way or another, and while they were instrumental in developing Loewe on a wider scale beyond simply leather goods, the house never settled on an identity. When Vevers stepped down to head American accessories label Coach in 2013, Loewe was still vying for the kind of industry clout it had struggled to pin down in ready-to-wear.
Enter Jonathan Anderson. Since the beginning of his tenure, the Northern Irish designer has made it his mission to build upon the Spanish brand’s long tradition of outstanding workmanship. Coming in with a youthful perspective, Anderson’s vision for Loewe was to “take a brand that operates in a luxury environment and make it about culture.”
Anderson was somebody who understood how to craft desirable luxury that transcends culture. This was apparent from his work at his own brand, JW Anderson, which started out as a menswear brand in 2008 before expanding into women’s clothing three years later. Although Anderson came in with an appreciation for Loewe’s artisanal touch that allowed him to truly get at the root of the house, there was a point where he had to take a step back a recognize that saying “we made things for the royal family” was no longer enough.
Upon his arrival at Loewe, Anderson proclaimed that “for something to be contemporary, it needs to reflect both the past and the present.” Nowhere is this sentiment upheld better than in his design of the ubiquitous Puzzle Bag. Taking cues from the iconic Amazona itself, the cleverly-engineered bag is constructed from over 40 individual pieces of the label’s ultrasoft leather and can be flattened completely. Further beauty lies in the understanding that the piece is put together by the actual hands of an artisan in Loewe’s workshop in Madrid.
Released with its own hashtag, the streamlined design made its way onto the arms of both cool kids in Madrid and fashion bloggers at Paris Fashion Week. The refreshing style adds a fresh character to the range of classic accessories, pairing of-the-moment functionality and aesthetics with the ingenious construction and incredible softness we’ve come to expect of the luxury house’s leather goods. Not only has the eye-catching Puzzle silhouette has become one of the brand’s most recognizable, but it’s really come to define the smart contemporary flair of Loewe.
Anderson’s understanding of pop culture and the power of association has elevated Loewe into a new stratosphere of cool. Before Anderson’s arrival, the brand was known as prissy, old-fashioned and stuffy. It also didn’t have a clothing vocabulary before, it was simply selling high-quality bags. Now fashion is a very serious component.
Some brands founded in the 19th century have made big business out of dazzling fashionistas with vignettes from their heritage and name-dropping famous clients. Others have been busy blatantly appealing to millennial and Gen Z audiences by merging fashion design and meme culture. When they came to a crossroads, Loewe kept it much more refined than this. When other luxury houses were putting out bulky sneakers and heritage logo tees, Anderson stuck to sartorial pieces ad soft knitwear, bringing an edge to tradition instead.
While simultaneously paying homage to the past and looking towards the future, Loewe finally seems to have stumbled upon its own signature style – and the entire process has come full circle. Under Jonathan Anderson, the once traditional brand is now more multifaceted, dynamic and vigorous than ever before. When you consider the scale from which Loewe has come in such a short time, Anderson’s ambitions are both bold and daring. It’s been a meticulous process, but they’ve finally stumbled upon their own contemporary identity.
Take Loewe’s latest Pre-Fall 2019 collection for instance. The fresh offering embodies the sleek tailoring and pared-back aesthetic that draws a contrast between craft and texture. Building on the micro bag trend that’s been dominating both the runways and the streets in 2019, Loewe’s Puzzle, Gate and Hammock bags are brought forth in miniature iterations alongside a playful array of animal-inspired accessories, namely pastel pink, lagoon blue, raspberry, steel blue and black, seamlessly fit all your daily essentials while staying on-trend.
The functional ready-to-wear pieces span cozy cardigans, pastel-toned asymmetric T-shirts and leather-embossed jackets, complemented with the Spanish fashion house’s signature leather bags. Filled with plenty of flowing fabrics, as well as matching top and bottom pairings, the program carves out a unique space for luxurious leisure.
It wasn’t too long ago that Loewe was nothing more than a conservative footnote in the long history of European luxury fashion. Now everyone wants a piece of Loewe – not just Spanish royalty. It’s now made its way back into the spotlight and on the backs of everybody from Penelope Cruz to A$AP Rocky.
Under Jonathan Anderson, the fashion house remains steeped in craft and tradition, yet it’s undeniably a cultural powerhouse of the present day. In building upon the immaculate execution and artisanal touch that make up the foundation of Loewe, Anderson has transformed the house into one that moves at the speed of today’s world.