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Surreal vs Real: The Jury’s Out at Loewe

No other designer gets twisted like Jonathan Anderson, writes Tim Blanks.
A model walks the runway for Loewe Spring/Summer 2023.
A model walks the runway for Loewe Spring/Summer 2023. (Getty Images)

PARIS – A giant anthurium rose invasively through the pristine white wooden floor of the Loewe show space. The flower is one of the most lascivious-looking in all of nature. Jonathan Anderson agreed. “It represents two things … or three, if it’s vibrating.” Weird sex was somewhere in the back of his mind. (It often is.) “Twisted,” was his summation. (It often is.) And yet there was an essential naivete in his presentation. Anderson’s girlish models radiated innocence, even as carnal anthuriums were draped over their bodies. “There is always something uncomfortable for me in the look, something slightly knife-edge,” he said. Though he insisted he was trying to find a balance, I could feel women in the audience shifting uncomfortably as young models walked past in the merest suggestion of a dress.

But this is why a Jonathan Anderson show lingers in the mind long after the last look has left the catwalk. What the hell was that, we wonder? He could say Barbie, I could say Alice in Wonderland, with proportions that stretched and shrank. He could say reality, and point to that giant anthurium, and I could say you couldn’t wish for a more artificial flower on the face of the planet. Then he would say nature’s a trickster. So is Jonathan Anderson.

Surrealism was still the uninvited guest at the wedding. A baby’s carseat as a tabard? Not quite Duchamp’s urinal but still a big challenge to orthodoxy. Last time, Anderson made a point of balloons in his accessories. Here, they were deflated, but there were many more of them, clusters of them covering shoes like petals or shells. But he also showed barely-there slip-ons of plastic. No place to hide in footwear like that. Or in the tiny flared dresses that accompanied them. Anderson’s creative impulse seemed to be towards reduction, as it was in the collection he showed for his own label in London ten days ago, though reduction for him doesn’t meant diminishment in any way. The silhouettes were perversely strong. He said he wanted “clarity and precision.” And making silhouettes is one thing he insisted he’s really enjoying. They were repeated over and over for emphasis. “Because repetition means you can hone the idea and ultimately get it right.”

Taylor Russell opened the show. She and Timothée Chalamet are soon to send the world sideways as cool cannibals in Luca Guadagnino’s Bodies and All. Afterwards, Anderson said she was “ultimately about the future of performance.” I wonder whether he sometimes wonders whether he might ultimately be the future of fashion in this crazy, mixed-up world.

Further Reading

There are profound lessons for fashion designers around the world embedded in the life and work of the Japanese innovator, whose death was announced this week, writes Angelo Flaccavento.




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