The one percent of the one percent have always been aggressive in exerting their power—it is they who elevated dressing as a domestic ritual and legitimised fashion as the snob’s art form. Here, history is synonymous with authenticity, and the Spanish, who have surrendered their pride to exalted French glamour—Balenciaga is the country’s most stinging loss—continue to boast that Loewe bloomed from their very own earth. “There’s so much goodwill for Loewe in Spain,”says Jonathan William Anderson, the London-based designer who, in 2013, succeeded Stuart Vevers as Loewe’s creative director. “They see it as their only luxury brand, so they’re very protective of it.”Loewe was acquired by French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH in 1996; LVMH acquired a 46 per cent stake in Anderson’s company just two years ago. Vevers’ first catwalk presentation proposed aphotic fantasies of Gothic excess that displaced the little black dress and consecrated the leather black dress. He was inspired by the work of German photographer Chris von Wangenheim, in particular, a 1977 shot of Christie Brinkley and a shadowy mare that had originally appeared in Vogue—eroticised mammals, both leggy, of two very different kinds. This season, Anderson described his woman as “someone who wears the trousers,”though she won’t be able to conquer the feat without a dash of impiety.
Loewe (pronounced low-ay-vay) doesn’t loll on manic cheers of devotion, certainly not to the extent of its flashier siblings—Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and, perhaps now, Céline. The name isn’t easy to pronounce, the company suffers an atomised archive, and its biggest market outside Spain is Japan (a quick Google search for Australian stockists diverted me to a home electronics company of the same name). Loewe was established in 1846, in Madrid, with two royal marriages approaching. Isabell II of Bourbon, at just sixteen years old, was set to wed her distant cousin, the Duke of Cadiz. That very same day, the teenage royal’s younger sister, Princess Maria Luisa Fernanda, two years her junior, married French noble Antoine d’Orléans, Duke of Montpensier. A group of artisans exploited the momentous double wedding to hawk their wares, and, in 1879, were joined by Enrique Loewe Roessberg, a German craftsman who lent his name to the company (he is erroneously dubbed the founder, though, born in 1842, would have possessed audacious sleight of hand to yield a carving knife at four years old). In 1905, Loewe was declared the Official Supplier to the Spanish Court, then under the auspices of King Alfonso XIII. Loewe launched a small apparel line in 1965, just months before Yves Saint Laurent launched Rive Gauche. The ready-to-wear department was fully realised in the 1970s, and designers including Enrique Õna Selfa, Narciso Rodriguez, Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld—the first German since Loewe Roessberg to spearhead creative operations—have fattened the archives.