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Tuesday October 8, 2013 MYT 5:40:00 PM
Tuesday October 8, 2013 MYT 6:07:10 PM
by suzy menkes
J.W. Anderson has been made creative director of Loewe, the Spanish leather brand that is part of the LVMH luxury stable. – AFP
J.W. Anderson has been made creative director of the Spanish leather brand.
“I LOVE Paris. It’s the most sophisticated city,” Jonathan Anderson said as he stood on the Champs-Élysées – and on top of the fashion world.
The Irish-born designer, who has become a shining star of London Fashion Week, was given a major injection of funding to his five-year-old J.W. Anderson brand by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. At the same time, he has been made creative director of Loewe, the Spanish leather brand that is part of the LVMH luxury stable.
“It’s very exciting,” said Anderson, who arrived in Paris from Dalston, the hip but rough area of northeast London where he works in a studio with just 14 people. But all that is now set to change with the tantalising possibility of stores for his brand and the opportunity to spread his creative talent.
Behind the deal are Delphine Arnault, the daughter of the LVMH chairman and chief executive, Bernard Arnault, and Pierre-Yves Roussel, the chairman and chief executive of the LVMH Fashion Group.
“When Delphine and I first met Jonathan, we immediately felt that we could help him express the full potential of his innovative brand,” Roussel said. “And while discussing our partnership better, it became clear that his understanding of all the creative facets of a brand and his capacity to transform tradition into an exciting vision for the present could also make him the perfect creative director at Loewe.”
Anderson tells the same story in a less formal way.
“After the autumn/winter show, I sat down with Delphine and Pierre-Yves – and for me they are just a natural partner. They excite me and they understand me – and I understand them,” the designer said. “And when you do this, you want people who believe in you.”
The J.W. Anderson brand is known for its transgender clothes, using frills for men and crossing boundaries in silhouette, fabric and structure for the once-separated sexes. He started with men’s wear, but his unexpected use of fabrics, especially in giving synthetics a couture treatment, led to his first women’s line for autumn/winter 2010.
Anderson, who has been his fledgling company’s designer, chief financial officer and “shrink,” says that he set out to develop a brand that will still exist “when I am no longer here.” He believes that in the new structure, his backers have the resources and the knowledge to grow the small company, which earned a profit last year and already has more than 70 retail sales points.
For Loewe, where his first collection may be shown next season or in a year’s time, Anderson is hoping to draw on his Irish Catholic roots and to what he sees as the rich artistic heritage of Spain.
“I remember going to Barcelona with my mother, scaling the Sagrada Família. I can’t imagine what it must have been like when Gaudí built those buildings that looked like they came from outer space,” he said, referring to the still-unfinished basilica that Antoni Gaudí began in 1882.
“I love Spanish culture,” he continued. “I like the ceramics there. I love the colour tone. They have had some of the greatest artists, like Picasso – and they also had Balenciaga.”
Balenciaga, the brand, now belongs to Kering (formerly PPR), which it bought in 2001, after a busy period of luxury acquisitions in the 1990s. More recently, in January 2013, the luxury group, headed by François-Henri Pinault, bought a controlling stake in the brand of the designer Christopher Kane, another powerful young British talent.
This tit-for-tat of brand acquisition suggests a reprise of the earlier period when Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen were bought by what was then PPR.
While any fledgling designer could only be thrilled that a giant group was prepared to offer investment support, others in the fashion industry are concerned that designers might be forced to give their all at a young age, although Anderson is adamant that he will be able to work at his own pace and is excited only at the new opportunities.
“I think that’s the most important part of it,” he said. “These companies are taking faith in young talent. It happened in the 90s. For me, it’s philanthropy — someone needs to do it.”
For small, independent retailers, who are often those who nurture young talent, this investment will be another blow, as the usual LVMH strategy is to open stores for designers, first in key cities, then across the world. Kering has already said it will open a London store for Kane.
But the luxury world is in need of talent, with next season already promising changes at Loewe, Mugler, Rochas and Schiaparelli.
Jean-Jacques Picart, a Paris-based consultant for luxury fashion and accessory brands, spells out the reality of being a young and dynamic designer in the 21st century.
“Either you get on a car that goes dangerously fast,” he says, “or you walk and find yourself plodding behind.” – IHT
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