“This is it. This is me. And I want you to come on my journey”: Jonathan Anderson on His Honest Debut Loewe Campaign-------
Despite what designers may tell you, there are few things in 2014 that are truly new. Everyone is inspired by something, whether it’s iconic photographs from decades past, seminal runway shows, an artist’s work, the list goes on. Jonathan Anderson, who showed his first collection for LVMH-owned heritage house Loewe in Paris this morning, is no different. But in his debut campaign for the house, which was unveiled yesterday, he actually did something quite fresh: He not only acknowledged his references, he highlighted them. The campaign, which was shot by Steven Meisel with art direction by M&M Paris (who also created Loewe’s revamped logo), is based on a 1997 Meisel editorial, which itself was based on an Alex Katz image. So alongside the new ads, Anderson has incorporated the old snaps. “Instead of hiding the inspiration, we just showed it,” offered Anderson, while snacking on some prawns in Paris Wednesday night. This honesty permeates his Spring ’15 menswear collection, too, which you can click through here. Ahead of his presentation, Anderson spoke with Style.com about the new ads, striving for timelessness, and why he never wants to feel like he’s “made it.”
This is the first big-budget campaign of your career. How did it go?
I keep pinching myself to believe that it’s all happening. It’s been nearly nine months in the making. When I was first thinking of Loewe, I had this 1997 Steven Meisel Vogue Italia editorial in mind, which was based on an Alex Katz picture. It was a group of kids on the beach, and I pitched it to the group. We were trying to work out how to tackle the house’s historical credentials. We got M&M on board to do the logo, and then it was, Well, how do we make imagery for this brand and show it as a cultural reference to fashion, a cultural reference to non-fashion? So we came up with the idea to reuse the 1997 Meisel images, and then we did new imagery with Meisel. We superimposed both, and used the idea of the fashion reference. There was no point in asking Meisel to re-create the image. It was more exciting to show his work now as art.
It feels very meta—this idea of Meisel referencing himself referencing Alex Katz. How does that tie in to your approach to this first collection?
I want Loewe to become a cultural brand. For me, the challenge was how do I take a [heritage] brand and make it modern for right now? We see these images in fashion repeated and copied and repeated and copied, and I thought it was better to just show them. They exist and they’re sharp and modern. I want Loewe to be an honest brand, and I want it to be open to new forms of fashion, new forms of imagery, and new forms of information. So by taking the still life of the bag and shooting it against a white backdrop, it is the bag. We’re not hiding anything—that’s it.
You included some pieces from the Loewe archive in the campaign. As an experimental designer, how did you go about working with Loewe’s archive to create your Spring ’15 imagery?
Well, I had to think, Do I reject the archive or do I embrace the archive? When I looked at the products from past decades, or when I looked at all the logos from years gone by, I loved what these things referred to culturally—what was happening at the time in photography, art, sports, music. All that was reflected in the logos. And when I looked at products, they did the same. In 1846, when trunks were necessary, Loewe had trunks. And then when it came to the seventies and the birth of airlines, you see the bags developed. Loewe has always been reactionary, and I wanted to show a work in progress, because this brand is a work in progress for me. So the campaign images are basically saying, “This is it. This is me. And I want you to come on my journey.”
What do you hope these images convey about the collection you’re sending down the runway?
That clothing exists in the world, in many forms and many decades. And ultimately in the end, you never really own it. It becomes part of the zeitgeist. I want people to see this as an edit—a very personal edit of a man’s wardrobe. This is my first major serious job, and it’s a big undertaking, and I want people to see that this is what it is, and we’re going to take it in many different angles, but fundamentally, it will be culturally aware.
The campaign shots you sent over are very accessories-driven, but there’s one striking image of a model wearing a look from the menswear collection, posing against a Saran-wrapped backdrop. Can you tell me about this photograph?
The concept is the idea of the nothingness. It’s the purity of the silhouette and the character within. I wanted to convey the idea that you were unpacking something, and that’s what it was. I love that this image looks like a work in progress. Ultimately, it’s a jersey suit, and in my mind the Loewe man is on the beach, in a jersey suit and espadrilles. He’s on the beach and being cool, even if it’s been boiling hot all day. I like the lightness, the airiness. I love how the flesh looks with the jersey. It has this naive effect. And it’s not anything more than that. I didn’t want to rush into the brand. I want to nurture it.
Did you feel that you had to go a more commercial route for these images than you would with ads for your own label?
I never thought about it as, “We have to be commercial.” I think that’s always a trap. I was just thinking, Does this feel right? The product has to make sense for me and for the consumer. I think this is consumer-led advertising because it’s coming right now—the product will be in the store in the next couple of weeks, so I want to know what the customer is thinking. I need to know what the buyer is thinking. That’s the nerve-racking part, but it’s also the most exciting part.
I remember interviewing you when you did your first campaign for J.W. Anderson. It was beautiful, but very DIY. Now you’re working with some of the biggest people in the business. Do you feel this campaign is a “made it” moment?
I don’t know if it’s a “made it” [moment]. I think, as a designer, you never really feel like you’ve “made it.” And if you do, it’s kind of worrying. I’m just so grateful that Steven and M&M wanted to work with me, and I think this campaign is a milestone for Loewe. It encompasses what this brand has fundamentally been about for many years. But we live in the day of social media, where images are devoured and devoured. People who were not involved in the fashion world would not know if Meisel’s image was shot today or twenty years ago. That’s what’s so interesting about Meisel. His work has got that element of timelessness, and that’s something I want in my products—for them to feel timeless.
How are you feeling leading up to the big debut?
It’s a lot of work. We’ve got our new building. We have the advertising campaign. We have the menswear collection, we have the bag collection, everything. And then it goes into stores in a couple weeks. There are a lot of balls in the air, but I have an amazing team of people who have been incredible. I’m very lucky that someone has basically said, “We trust you to do it.” I want to enjoy it. I’m looking forward to seeing that beach scene on a kiosk. I’m looking forward to seeing it in a magazine. I’m looking forward to seeing clothing on people. Loewe has become my brand, but it is Loewe. I’m here as a guest, but we’re rebuilding, and we’re rebuilding a house that has incredible craft and technology and details that I’ve never seen before in my entire life. Every day, I get up a 6 a.m. because I’m excited. And I think that’s what it should be about.