Clothes are never the sole focus at a Loewe show. But on a damp Friday morning in Paris, its craft-loving creative director, Jonathan Anderson, continued to explore the conversation between art and fashion by centring his autumn collection on the selfie.
Inspired by what is thought to be the earliest example of one – a photograph by the amateur chemist Robert Cornelius in 1839, which appeared in the invitations – the idea was to view clothes as one would a photograph. If selfies are about scrutiny and perfection, says the Northern Irish designer, why not treat the clothes with the same reverence?
This theme was reinforced from the venue to the clothes, in granular detail. Taking place inside the Unesco building south of the river, the catwalk was a multi-room space that gave the audience a chance to view the clothes in 360 vision: as they entered, turned, exited into the second room and re-entered again. The black herringbone parquet floor was deliberately reflective, and on the white walls hung a collection of miniature oval-shaped portraits of kings, queens and “nobodies”, analogue selfies in a digital age.
“Each facsimile invokes the marriage of form and function at an inherently personal scale,” said Anderson of the pictures, which dated to the 16th and 17th centuries. They were too small to see, but this was the point: if selfies are about showing your face to as many people as possible, these were more private.
On the catwalk, the theme meant functional daywear with an intelligent edge, designed to be worn but also – judging by the winged skullcaps – to be seen and photographed. This being a winter collection, the focus began with coats, which came full-length and fitted, with cinched waists and wide lapels.
There were capes, satin jackets and diaphanous leather coats, too, although the standout item – one that elicited gasps – was a checkerboard kimono coat with leather bell sleeves. Everything was long, and exaggerated; even winter shorts fell below the knee, though they would probably be mid-calf on “regular” people.
Since joining the Spanish fashion house in 2013-14, Anderson has used a high level of craftsmanship. This was most obvious in the pin-tucked organza and organdie dresses, cleverly fused with ribbed knitwear, and which Anderson described as “paradoxical textures”. From a distance, they looked like separates but were in fact one piece. The devil was not simply in the detail, it was the detail.
Elsewhere, he played with perception and angles. From the front, a pinched waist jacket was a jacket, but behind it had clipped at the back to fit. The leather loafers looked normal, but from behind had collapsible heels.
The crowd-pleasing Puzzle bags – Loewe is all about bags – looked the same, but up close had been quietly reworked in striped leather. Other detailing included slotted lapels, sloped pockets, a skirt made from silver tinsel and a jumper of pearl armour.
Loewe is not the first label to reference selfies in a catwalk collection – see Dolce & Gabbana’s SS16 influencer show, and Balmain for the past few years – but it is probably the first to intellectualise them to this degree.
Anderson does not like to coddle his audience, but viewed within the context of self-image, his attitude towards image and perception became increasingly clearer. The level of detail suggests the multiview catwalk was not simply about showing every angle, but also ensuring the audience did not miss a single technical trick.
As a rule, Anderson leans towards high-concept reference points, and while selfies might be responsible for the swallowing up of youth culture, historically, they were also about convenience – sometimes, it was simpler for the photographer to act as the subject.
Heralded as one of the few male designers able to view womenswear from a women’s gaze, the selfie theme seemed to be as much about who owns whose image as it was about Instagram.