Suuuuuuuny Spain? Not a chance. It is pissing down with rain in Barcelona and decidedly grey in Madrid but I'm happy as larry as I'm here in Spain to experience Loewe in its birthplace of Madrid as well to see the opening of its newly renovated store on Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona and the accompanying Galleria Loewe, just down the road. That's a lot to take in from that one sentence and the bombarding onslaught of detailed picture posts are yet to come but for now, I had to pick out this one nugget of beauty for its sheer awe-inspiring prettiness.
At the Loewe Barcelona store opening last night, in addition to marvelling at the wonderfully designed (courtesy of Peter Marino) store on Paseo de Gracia, they had set up a demonstration of a traditional skilled embroiderer from Andalucia, sewing away at what can only be described as THE mant√≥n de Manila to end all mant√≥nes de Manila.
The mant√≥n de Manila (literally translated, "shawl of Manila') is of course an iconic Spanish symbol, relating to the flamenco traditions of southern Spain and has inspired Loewe's silk scarves for generations. In a strange East-West connection that parallels the growing success of Loewe in Asia right now, the manton actually dates back to the 16th century, where silk scarves embroidered with Taoist symbols were imported from China to Seville via Manila in the Philippines, which was then a Spanish colony. The Chinese shawls were then adapted by Spanish craftsmen, where dragons and lotus flowers became local species of birds and flora such as roses, daisies and irises.
This is a special made to order embroidered piece that will translate to more accessible silk mant√≥n de Manila inspired prints but as an ode to the artistry of embroidery, the shawl really is quite impressive. Four women will take up to three months to complete this stupendous shawl. I know, I know – yet another stat to clock up the "We value craftsmanship" campaign that high end brands with a veritable heritage and history love to spout out. I'm a sucker for the sentiment though, especially when you see it in action here with needle and thread coming together to make something as special as this shawl. I was mesmerised to the point where I stood there gawping at the woman for about five minutes.
The colours of the floral design are loosely related to the silk prints that Spanish artist Antonio Ballester Moreno has designed for Loewe, that were displayed at an after party event last night. Moreno has reinterpreted the more traditional mant√≥n de Manila designs with a slightly naive and upbeat spin that feels right for Loewe's foray into a "younger" brand image, in lieu of what creative director Stuart Vevers is doing at the house.
The more traditional mant√≥n-inspired designs by Loewe
Still, the lasting impression of the hand-embroidered silk shawl is palpable – and certainly is about as aspirational as it gets in craftsmanship. To own something like this would be the surefire answer to the ubiquitous "What would you save from your closet if your house was on fire?"