Céline Dion is warbling Pour que Tu M’Aimes Encore through the radio. I’m in the back of my Uber, late – as usual – and the traffic is bad. Jacques Chirac has died and hordes of police flank Palais Bourbon in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, amassing cars on the Left Bank. Horns toot incessantly, and despite stagnant traffic seemingly unwavering in Paris, the French are apparently not fond of it. According to the invite, Loewe starts at 9:30am. It’s 9:35am. Alas, the stress has kicked in. Pulling up at Maison de l’UNESCO, the setting for today’s Loewe Women’s Spring Summer 2020, I spot Camille Charriere posing on the sidewalk in Loewe’s shearling-trimmed caramel suede jacket and Puzzle Bag. Phew! Fashion shows are fashionably late after all. Caroline Daur steps out of her car just before me and proceeds to pose, the much-relished fodder of zealous street stye photographers. She is wearing a printed cape and white wide-leg pants, a Gate Bag swinging from her wrist.
Outside, grey clouds mass on the La Tour Eiffel. Inside, a white labyrinth of rich cream carpet and undulating gauzy curtains of varying opacity. Towering pampas grass in potted urns sit beside monolithic amethyst geodes, a pristine sanctuary both serene and tranquil. This is the setting for Loewe Spring Summer 2020, and what a setting it is.
I am inside “the circle”, two crescents which dissect this sprawling Loewe warren, the carpeted runway in between. Helped along by a mellow hum, a model walks out in a white and black lace tunic with a ruff collar and matching trousers. Another model steps out in a gossamer black bra, a deconstructed white lace midi skirt and pale lemon block-heel boots. A black lace shirt dress follows and the same yellow boots. Its detail is beyond words; intricate lacework, floral cut-outs, wispy elongated ams and a billowing handkerchief hemline, it is cinched with a stark white belt replete with dangling white balls. Jonathan Anderson’s meticulous construction continues; new pannier shapes, exquisite beading, a sight so deft, so considered, so precise, it’s difficult to comprehend, particularly in this digital world where craftsmanship is waning.
The journey continues. A cape expands from knitted shrugs to a billowing poncho coat with extravagant sleeves, as delicate overlays of fringe, pearls and wooden beading fall off bare shoulders. There is circular macramé, organdie bows and pin-tucked voile which creates exquisite artisanal transparencies. The pots of pampas grass spin, the curtains ripple back and forth thanks to clever mechanics, a movement which seems both disruptive and serene all the same.
Anderson plays on suspension, intimacy and control, deconstructing those elements with the kind of deft craftsmanship Loewe prides itself on. There is an exploration of the boudoir, but overt objectification is out of the question, rather, a bourgeois seduction unfolds where extremes of femininity and luxury are pushed to ethereal heights. It is not sexy, per se, it’s sensual and moving and poetic. Contrast plays out in fabrication, as both crisp and soft decorative fabrics coexist. There’s guipure which is geometric in its articulation, Chantilly and marguerite lace encrusted with matte cottons and Japanese satin, and neat tailoring and bonded trenches cascade from the back or bust in ruffled volumes.
A new addition to Loewe’s prized accessories collection, the Balloon Bag, makes it debut; a sculptural drawstring bucket style in three sizes crafted in refined materials like smooth calfskin, crochet raffia and classic canvas. And for when night falls, the signature Heel Pouch is resized as a minaudière in exotic skins such as lizard and crocodile and decorated with fancy trims from marabou and fringed tassels to a sparkling crystal hibiscus brooch.
Models ramble in chunky penny loafers made of suede python cuissarde, stacked mod slip-ons and patent two-tone tango shoes. Then of course, the boots, square-toe and thigh-high, they offer structure and strength to the smooth fluidity of the collection.
The soundtrack shifts from zen humdrum to acid house, loud and electrifying. The girls walk single file in Anderson’s soft, masterful confections to the trippy crescendo, the contrast beautifully jarring. A collection which alludes to a patrician elegance, it’s a meditative ode to the versatility of Anderson’s creative aptitude.
I leave on a high, the electro-synth beats pulsating through my body, wishing I could go back to Loewe’s wonderfully serene, strangely cathartic rave. How wonderful it was to be part of it.