Art Fashion

Loewe Has Always Been Fun. Jonathan Anderson Proves It With a Topsy Turvy Exhibition in Shanghai

All images courtesy of Loewe.

“Crafted World,” a fashion and art proto-retrospective that rather jubilantly charts the history and aesthetic web of the Spanish label Loewe, opened its doors today in Shanghai, China. It is the house's first major exhibition. While “Crafted World” begins at Loewe’s conception—1846, making it the oldest house in LVMH’s portfolio—much of it is dedicated to the tenure of Jonathan Anderson, who was appointed creative director there in 2013 (yes, that long ago). 

“When you go in and look at 10 years of work, it’s quite… well, it’s like you’re sort of confronted with what you’ve achieved,” said Anderson over a midday roundtable in Shanghai, the day before the exhibition’s ribbon-cutting. “I’ve sold this to the press so many times—that every collection is different and is something brand new, but when I see them all together in the room, it’s very interesting to me that there is a language in the make of the clothing. There is a language to it all, somehow.”


The top-heavy emphasis on Anderson-era Loewe is a good thing, and his above sentiment is actually, to this writer, pretty humble–yes, his oeuvre veers and wiggles, but I’ve always found it to be pretty fluent in one dialect: marketable, highly artful eclecticism with an emphasis on artisanal excellence, accessories to ready-to-wear to objects and back again. 

“Crafted World” channels this vernacular. Patrons will be “confronted” by a well-lit, well-paced installation of polychrome chambers and slick production values. Visuals include, but are far from limited to: Rihanna’s 2023 Super Bowl halftime performance outfit, leather-intarsia signature “Puzzle” bags, actual toolkits used by craftspeople in Loewe’s Madrid workshops, rare collaborative pieces with Studio Ghibli, a stairwell tunnel with screens that blare out the correct pronunciation of Loewe (“Lo-eh-vay”), and glimpses at machinery, including leather-thrashing arms that test bags’ durabilities. 


It’s Anderson who has propelled the house into greater conversations outside of fashion’s gilded complexes—the company continues to grow its own fine art collection, for example, and hosts its eponymous Craft Prize, inaugurated in 2016, for ascendant artists and craftspeople. In turn, Loewe is now a billion-plus-dollar business–and it’s all underscored, through a prism of offbeat imagination, by what it takes to actually make a product versus churning it out in a factory. What other designer brand out there, for instance, sells a handmade leather purse in the shape of an elephant? (Multiple sizes of which you can purchase at the “Crafted World” gift shop.)

“[Loewe] was very tight as a brand ... It had crippled itself somehow through the idea of being a luxury brand,” Anderson reasoned in Shanghai. “But when I looked into the archive, and when I was thinking about my own experience with Spanish culture, I realized there’s a lot of fun in it.”


Fun—good humor, an embrace of big color, and even borderline whimsy and kitsch—is also central to Anderson’s Loewe-verse and, by extension, “Crafted World.” The show features the notorious “Car” dress from Fall/Winter 2022, a wild “dragon knit” beanie from a collaboration with the artist William De Morgan, ceramics by Pablo Picasso featuring naif faces and birds, a rigid Quaker dining chair festooned with neon blue straw (made for Salone del Mobile in Milan), and tiny wall cutouts inhabited by miniature leather dolphins and owls.

Of the application of craft—across the curation of “Crafted World” and his own approach to ideating within Loewe itself—Anderson mused: “There’s something about it that becomes quite twisted. Craft almost becomes a character, in and of itself.” 

Crafted World” is on view through May 5, 2024 at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre. From there, the exhibition will travel, but its next location has not yet been disclosed.