Cultural brand and cultural agitator is how Jonathan Anderson describes Loewe and JW Anderson respectively: different fashion places where he holds the same position of creative director (and, in the case of JW, founder). For the first time the archive collections of both brands are shown together in Hyères, celebrating the most iconic moments of Anderson’s career. Curator, however, would be a more apt definition for the way he operates. Anderson, in fact, despite having created an unmistakable design language that is abstractly elegant, full of ruptures and inherently, at times provocatively averse to gender specifications, curates way before he designs. It’s a questionof mindset. A brand, after all, is defined by the products it creates as well as by the actions it promotes. For Anderson these actions are closely linked to the worlds of art, craft and culture. These activities which might not directly impact sales and figures, but that nonetheless give structure and depth to both identity and appeal, promoting highly specific values based on what, in a broader sense, can only be described as taste. Anderson’s taste is highly cerebral just as much as it is playful. He likes frictions, clashes, contrasts which he harmonises in oblique ways.
As probably the first design curator — in 2017 he actually curated “Disobedient Bodies”, an exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield in Wakefield — Jonathan Anderson radicalises the tasks of the creative director. In fact, if creative direction is a global image operation broadcast through multiple channels — fashion shows, press campaigns, ad hoc initiatives, endorsements — thus composing an all-surrounding brand experience for the consumer, design as curatorship benefits from the impromptu gratuitousness of the artistic gesture, which is usually detached from any immediate commercial purpose. As such, the brand’s status is somehow increased. Fashion, through the eye of the designer curator, does not engage in collaborations with art, but contaminates its very own identity with it, allowing for a permanent genetic mutation to happen. This is well evident, in different ways, in
both JW Anderson and Loewe. While Loewe keeps a frisson of Mediterranean sensuality with a stress on the tactility of craft, JW inclines towards a brilliant bluntness of contrast.
Either way, Jonathan Anderson follows an almost engineering clarity in approach, favoring collage as a way to combine an array of different elements into a prismatic whole that encompasses photography projects, publishing fanzines, creating objects or even just sensations. At Loewe, in particular, due to the leather-making expertise of the house, Anderson delves into craft, his own way. The handmade, which elsewhere is celebrated looking backwards, in a nostalgic loophole or an ode to tradition, in his hands turns into a progressive tool. So much so that in 2016 Anderson founded the LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize, the world’s first international award for contemporary craft. Openness to the most diverse forms of expression is another essential quality for the curator, and Jonathan Anderson has an insatiable curiosity for all expressive forms. At the core, even at his most abstract, he remains a classicist: there is a balance and elegance to his work that is another signature, together with culture.
Photography : Luc Bertrand