“Welcome to Loewe Land”  I *think* Jonathan Anderson was saying this in jest, as he waved his hands over the “Past, Present, Future” exhibition that is currently open to the public at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid.  But over a compact two day trip to the city where the Spanish leather goods house is rooted to, it really did feel like an excursion to a Loewe Land of sorts.  One that crazily, has really only been in existence for two years since Anderson became creative director.  The word ‘past’ in the title of the exhibition lingers in the background, and yes, we saw traces of Loewe’s 170 year history embedded here and there – but there can be no doubt that what you took away was the here, the now and the yet-to-come from Anderson’s creative direction.

Case in point, there was a stark difference between when I last visited Loewe’s factory in Getafe, on the outskirts of Madrid back in 2012 when Stuart Vevers was still heading up the house to the factory visit I undertook this time round.  Everything looked different.  The physical layout and decor.  That M/M Paris reconfigured logo embroidered on all the craftspeople’s uniforms.  A snazzy canteen that looks more than fit to feed what looked to be an increased workforce.  Above all, the processes looked completely different.  More machinery in rooms where alas, I wasn’t allowed to enter due to my advanced pregnancy.  Peering in through the window, I could hear the hum drum of vast laser cutting machines programmed to cut all those wonderful skins.

The leathers had broadened out.  The super soft Spanish entrefino lambskins, sturdier calfskins and marble-rubbed suedes were all still there and obviously take centre stage in the key bags that Anderson has since introduced into the Loewe bag fold – the Puzzle, the Hammock and the Barcelona to add to the existing Flamenco and Amazona styles.  On a crazier rail in the leather research room though are bonded leathers, pleated finishes and bold patterns as well as swatches of hand-painted leathers.  It’s a balance between the traditional and the experimental that the Loewe craftsmen have taken onboard and you see an excited glint in their eyes when they recall creating objects such as the leather-clad giant cat necklaces of the AW16 collection or being tasked to take the material of a trainer recontextualise it into bags.  And yet, at the same time, Anderson still has the appreciation of leather that is “like a lady with very little make-up on”.

0e5a2321

0e5a2343

0e5a2335

0e5a2341

0e5a2347

0e5a2330

Perhaps the biggest change I saw was in the production line of the factory.  You can always tell demand for a brand’s bag is up when there are target sheets pinned onto the line.  Production of the hit Puzzle bag was in full force and I finally got to see the beginning-to-end of the assembly of what is a complicated bit of leather pattern cutting, where forty pieces of leather come together.  Around ten craftsmen work in tandem with one another to bring the components of structured last, the canvas lining, handle and of course the distinctly cut and sewn Puzzle configuration in leather together.  It’s perhaps a more efficient process to what I saw last time I was at the factory when they were making the old style Flamenco bags.  This paced up production is required of course to meet the customer demand that Anderson’s transformation of Loewe now engenders.  And yet, despite the sped up hands and lean manufacturing processes, the quality control that goes into a Loewe bag isn’t lost.  That’s evident in the final product itself as well as the numerous checks put in place to ensure stitch, seam and component meets the exacting standards of the house.

0e5a2444

0e5a2353

0e5a2354

0e5a2405

0e5a2373

0e5a2368

0e5a2379

0e5a2381

0e5a2389

0e5a2392

0e5a2395

0e5a2352

0e5a2401

0e5a2412

0e5a2416

0e5a2428

The main purpose of my being in Madrid though was the opening of Casa Loewe, officially now the largest Loewe store in the world and the first in Spain that reflects the new direction of the house.  In bricks and mortar form, Anderson’s indelible mark can be seen everywhere.  Again, I’m comparing and contrasting against the last time I was in Madrid with Loewe.  Back then I visited the historic but small Gran Via store.  The newly revamped Casa Loewe is a different beast altogether, occupying an entire corner of Calle Goya and Serrano in the Salamanca district.  When we were there, that famous Madrid golden light in the late afternoon was hitting the impressive facade.  And inside that light flooded into the double height space of over a thousand square meters that accommodate specially chosen pieces of artwork such as Sir Howard Hodgkin’s giant aquatint entitled ‘As Time Goes By (Orange)’ that stretches across the ground floor wall.  Keeping Casa Loewe specific to Madrid is a wall installation of handmade ceramic tiles by Spanish-Americna artist Glora Garcia Lorca.  Their earthiness complements the Valencian clay floors and Camparspero stone of the central staircase as well as the organic craft-led textures of Anderson’s most recent ready to wear collections for the house.  Cleverly, amidst rough-hewn tweeds, shades of calico and veg-tan leather though is product.  Plenty of it.  Anderson has never shied away from the P word and so elephant bags, abstract brooches, interiors-led blankets and now a his ‘n’ her house perfume are now recognisable signifiers of Anderson’s Loewe, in addition to the stable of bag styles.  They take pride of place in Casa Loewe.

0e5a2581

0e5a2560

0e5a2580

0e5a2535

0e5a2553

0e5a2529

0e5a2520

0e5a2592

0e5a2597

0e5a2598

0e5a2626

0e5a2643

0e5a2658

img_2674

To the side on 4 Calle Goya is an unexpected addition to the store that will draw in most non-fashion folk with a florist that ties in with Anderson’s latest collaborative imagery with Steven Meisel, inspired by British educator and florist Constance Spry.  Her books on flower arranging are floristry classics and so her ethos flourishes both in this Loewe florist and in the set of stunning colour photographs, that look almost like painterly Dutch still lifes.  This “Flowers” series is also on display at the Royal Botanical Gardens.  The spontaneity of the arrangements and their exuberant palette is an irresistible combination.  They simultaneously have everything and nothing to do with what Loewe are outputting.  That’s Anderson again asserting his unpredictable respect for the past, which just so happens to feel right for the present.

0e5a2456

0e5a2467

0e5a2495

0e5a2484

0e5a2474

0e5a2492

img_2682

img_2686

img_2694

img_2695

img_2696

img_2698

img_2700

img_2702

img_2703

img_2776

In the other part of the ‘Past, Present, Future’ exhibition you can see the taxonomy of Loewe laid out before you in the form of collaged walls and floors as well as a clear perspex display of objects from Loewe’s archives, current product as well as antiques that configure into this architected brand map of the house, conjured up by Anderson.  In other words, Loewe Land.  One that feels like it has been around forever but scarily, has only been in fruition for just over two years.  Which leaves the question of where Loewe and Anderson can go in the future.  You couldn’t but wonder about where else this exacting vision, curation and precision of aesthetics could be applied to.

Casa Loewe now open at Calle Serrano 34 in Madrid. Loewe ‘Past, Present, Future’ exhibition on at the Villanueva Pavilion inside the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid until the 9th December 

img_2747

img_2755

img_2775

img_2754

img_2719

img_2753

img_2721

img_2758

img_2760

img_2761

img_2767

img_2769

P.S. Yes the blog has been lying dormant for a while.  Hormones, hospital visits that involve a “bleed bag” and extreme fatigue somehow don’t make you want to HIP-HIP-HURRAH about fashion.  My fash-mojo will be making its way back onto the site now though…

>> I had been meaning to post this small collation of “unnatural flora” which I had partially picked up from some extraordinary sets during the SS17 shows.  The main culprits being Rodarte’s arrangement of neon light tubes, yellow-hued wild flowers trapped in steel frames, looking like industrial wreaths on the ground.  And then there was Dries van Noten ‘s twenty-three floral arrangements encased in rectangular blocks of ice, created by the Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto.  Then I thought back to Simone Rocha‘s 2015 collaboration with photographer Jacob Lillis, culminating in a series of photographs “Flowers and Cars” where humble gatherings of English blooms sprout from the seats and bonnets of rusty old vehicles.

Two days after the US Elections, for some reason I mulled over these images of unnaturally trapped flora.  Their unexpected beauty took on a different meaning.  They’ve become flowers that mourn something of a heavy loss – the full consequences of which are yet to play out.  Whether embedded into steel, frozen into ice or crashing into chassis and engines, there’s a swell of meaning in these poignant bouquets, that go beyond surface-level prettiness.  Time to reflect and rethink.


Rodarte S/S 17 set of neon, steel and wild flowers created by Bureau Betak

0e5a0320

0e5a0318

0e5a0325

0e5a0333

0e5a0328

0e5a0330


Dries van Noten x Azuma Makoto floral arrangements encased in ice at S/S 17 show

0e5a6987

0e5a6973

0e5a6972

0e5a6977

0e5a6983

0e5a6992

0e5a6976

0e5a6994

0e5a6999

0e5a7013

0e5a7002

0e5a7015

0e5a7005

0e5a7009

0e5a7007

0e5a7022

0e5a7021

0e5a7026


“Flowers and Cars” photographed by Jacob Lillis for Simone Rocha 

car_flowers_01

car_flowers_03

car_flowers_04

car_flowers_05

car_flowers_06

car_flowers_07

simone-rocha-amuseInstallation inspired by Lillis’ photographs in Simone Rocha’s Mount Street store at the beginning of this year (from Amuse)

sticker

>> After a long and hard look at the dreadful state of my office slash gubbins-keeping slash spare room, which is soon to be the nursery, I’ve decided to try and cut down on keeping paper-based paraphernalia.  I’ve accumulated a substantial statsh of handwritten notes, greetings cards and lookbooks with a paperstock that I like the feel of, that sadly must either be recycled or go into storage.  In the latest batch of all things papier from the last round of shows, I found this note from Stuart Vevers of Coach.  It doesn’t say anything particularly significant but it does have an array of stickers on it (metallics/jellies/bumpies – no felties alas).  Which apparently was enough of a reason for me to hang onto it.  The cuteness of it of course correlates with the sort of accessories that Coach have been delving into that get inner kids in both men and women excited.  There’s sturdiness in robust bags like their glove-tanned Rogue, which comes in a myriad of colours, but then they’ve introduced a host of motifs and characters – creatures that roamed the earth long long ago and an alphabet of varsity patches that underline the AW16 collection.

And so I played around with my own set of Coach-inspired digi-stickers.  Photoshop isn’t quite the same as a Lisa Frank sticker album but it does make it easy to dawdle away an hour or so, making static leather dinosaurs and teddy heads bop about the page.  Wait…. wasn’t I upstairs in the spare room supposedly clearing out paper miscellany?  Procrastination due to leather patches.  Whatever next…

coachdinosmallCoach AW 16 dress and Coach Dinosaur Turnlock Wristlet

coachpatchCoach AW 16 dress worn with vintage Courreges jacket and Coach Rogue patch bag

coachkeyCoach AW 16 dress and Coach Rogue bag in grey suede

Grasse, the famous epicentre of the perfume industry, is a sort of mythical land to me. Somewhere I’ve read about extensively, most notably of course in Patrick Suskind’s novel about a scent-mad serial killer, but have never had the chance to visit because I’m not technically a beauty journalist.   Nor am I by any means an expert on the perfume industry.   Its relation to fashion though is more than obvious. In many cases, its revenue dwarfs that of ready to wear and accessories.  The launch of a perfume has catapulted a fashion house into stratospheric levels, giving a brand household stats.

In the case of Louis Vuitton though, the order is somewhat unusual.  First of course came the luggage – the outfitting of the privileged for their travel needs on the waters, by rail and road and eventually by plane.  Then its foray into fragrance and cosmetics with crystal perfume bottles called ‘Editions d’Art’ and then their first scent in 1927 entitled Heures d’Absence, followed by Je Tu II in 1928 and then Réminiscences and Eau de Voyage in 1946.  This buried fragrance history of Louis Vuitton was something which I only learnt about in last year’s Volez, Voguez Voyagez exhibition held at the Grand Palais. Sadly no traces of those original perfumes – its physical form or formulae – exist anymore because of an archival fire in the 1970s.  And so Louis Vuitton – the perfume – as a project was shelved for decades.  Until about four years ago, when Jacques Cavallier Belletrud was hired to become the official Louis Vuitton “nose” or more formally, their Master in-house perfumer.  As a third generation perfumer, Belletrud has architected many award winning perfumes such as Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio and Issey Miyake’s L’Eau D’Issey.

0e5a0058

0e5a0090

0e5a0072

0e5a0067

0e5a0073

He began to go on a journey, collating experience and artefacts from around the world to come up with what would form Louis Vuitton’s collection of Les Parfums.   Why seven?  There wasn’t a specific number in the brief and Belletrud had the tough task of whittling it down from an initial batch of ninety.  It was perhaps too difficult to compress Belletrud’s research into one singular scent.  Or on a more practical level, having seven very diverse (yet unified by their idiosyncrasy) fragrances mirrors our perfume shelves for both men and women.  In our household, Steve has about four or five in steady rotation and I normally grab from a selection of about seven or eight depending on mood, occasion and even what sort of clothes I’m wearing.   You’ll gravitate towards specific scents in the Louis Vuitton’s Les Parfums but equally, three or four of them might take your fancy, hence why they have produced miniature sets comprising of all seven as well as travel atomisers that allow you to switch around.

To begin this journey of LV’s Les Parfums, after Paris Fashion Week, I flew to Nice to experience Grasse and more specifically, a dream of a fragrance laboratory for Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christianne Dior, known as Les Fontaines Parfumées.  Housed in a former tannery that harks back to Grasse’s roots as a centre of leather goods dating back to the 12th century, Belletrud has a pretty idyllic setting to experiment, create and explore.  The perfume project for Louis Vuitton of course is an ongoing one, which is why we got not just a presentation of the now released parfums but an insight into the working life of Belletrud.

0e5a0075

0e5a0122

0e5a0082

But this initial seven is what we came to discover.  Nestled in a recreation of a flower-filled trunk known as the Malle Fleur, which Louis Vuitton once sent to clients as a token of goodwill, are the chosen seven fragrances that form Les Parfums encased in the French-made flacons designed by Marc Newson.  As we smelled each one, it was clear there was definitely a strategic thinking behind the diversity.  The journey begins in Grasse’s field of roses where Rose des Vents was born.  The distinctive smell of lily-of-the-valley continues that floral wave in Apogée.  For fans of sweeter fragrances, you have the heady Madagascan and Tahitian vanilla of Contre Moi.  The intensity of tuberose is worked into Turbulences along with a jasmine native to Grasse.  Naturally leather would somehow be involved.  The tanned leather used at Vuitton’s Asnieres workshop is incorporated with two kinds of jasmine and narcissus in Dans la Peau.  Upon seeing a raspberry leather at the workshop, Belletrud also managed to weave in the contrasting scents of leather and raspberry into Mille Feux.  My personal favourite is Matière Noire, perhaps the most masculine of scents with its notes of agarwood, contrasted with an intense mix of blackcurrant and jasmine.

0e5a0094

0e5a0106

0e5a0098

0e5a0099

0e5a0087

0e5a0112

0e5a0117

0e5a0119

0e5a0121

0e5a0143

0e5a0196

In Belletrud’s office, a custom made Louis Vuitton trunk houses the myriads of scents that form the tools to a craft that is difficult to illustrate in words and pictures and yet evocative to see. We went one step further and got to sit in Belletrud’s laboratory space where the delicate and scientific task of mixing up a fragrance is done. Working with milligram scale, pipettes and precise formula, we got an idea of mixing our very own perfumes. Going for a woody scent, it was up to us how much of the key components named ‘Coeur Floral’ and ‘Bois Moderne’ would go into our fragrances.   The result?  Something that probably smelt quite crude and common to Belletrud’s fine nose but for me wasn’t a bad fragrance to tote around when travelling.

The simplicity of the fragrances we created of course pale in comparison with what Belletrud has achieved with Louis Vuitton.  By the time you’ve had a whiff of all of Les Parfums, the combination lingers like a storied voyage around the world, where different places leave their olfactory traces on your skin.  Belletrud doesn’t have a prescriptive method of mixing Les Parfums.   “It’s not my property anymore,” he says with a shrug.  Meaning you do with the seven bottles as you will.   Just don’t spritz the perfume and rub furiously into your wrists, which kills the perfume.  That’s apparently the equivalent of trampling all over a bed of flowers with your feet.  Duly noted Jacques.  Duly noted.

0e5a0136

0e5a0140

0e5a0141

0e5a0148

0e5a0151

0e5a0164

0e5a0166

0e5a0180

0e5a0172

0e5a0186

0e5a0204

0e5a0220

0e5a0217Wearing Molly Goddard dress, J Brand trousers, Missoni x Converse slip-ons and Off-White bag