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Loewe love

From a humble leather collective to one of the hottest brands of the decade, Spanish luxury brand Loewe has come a long way

Loewe has been almost everywhere lately. Its ubiquitous nature has become the brand's defining feature. From the Oscars red carpet and the MET Gala to movie premieres and even Internet memes, the Spanish fashion house has received the stamp of approval from audiences worldwide. While you'd be forgiven for thinking that Loewe has only recently emerged on the scene, this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, it was founded 178 years ago, making it one of the oldest brands in the world and also the oldest luxury fashion house under the LVMH label.

Much like the other stalwarts of luxury fashion, Loewe's story began as a leathermaking collective in 1846. Working out of a small atelier in Madrid, a group of Spanish craftsmen produced high-quality leather bags and accessories.

But what gave the brand its name was the arrival of German leathermaker Enrique Loewe Roessberg, who took the helm in 1872 and bestowed his name upon the company. His German heritage also informs the correct pronunciation of the brand – 'lo-weh-vay' with the last syllable featuring a 'v' sound as commonly used in German, rather than a 'w' sound.

While this change in leadership certainly set the brand on a firm course to the top, it remained true to its artisanal roots, producing some of the finest leather goods in Spain. The exquisite craftsmanship caught the attention of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, who designated Loewe as the "Supplier to the Royal Court" in 1905. His wife Queen Victoria Eugenie was frequently spotted at the brand's Príncipe de Madrid street store. This royal patronage later attracted celebrities like Ernest Hemingway, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren and Marlene Dietrich, who became loyal customers.

One of the most pivotal moments in the brand's history came in 1965, when Loewe launched its first ready-to-wear collection with its first-ever fashion show in Madrid. This move to diversify its product offerings and cultivate a broader audience proved immensely successful.

Riding this wave, Loewe introduced one of its most iconic creations in 1975 – the Amazona bag. Named after the race of warrior women in Greek Mythology, the Amazons, it was designed to resonate with women who had just started entering the workforce. Its distinctive silhouette continues to define the product line even today and it is now offered in various colours, sizes and materials.

The brand's rising popularity propelled it into the global spotlight, resulting in luxury goods conglomerate LVMH securing Loewe's international distribution rights in 1986. A decade later, LVMH completed its acquisition of Loewe, a year in which the brand recorded sales of approximately US$200 million. While it had remained a family-run business before this, the appointment of Narciso Rodriguez as Creative Director in 1997 proved to be a game-changer. During his tenure, the brand debuted its inaugural Paris runway presentation at the Fall/Winter 1998 showcase. Subsequent creative directors left their mark but it was Jonathan Anderson's arrival in 2013 that heralded a transformative era for the brand.

When Anderson – founder of his eponymous label JW Anderson – stepped in, the brand’s client base was generally conservative. But his formula to appeal to contemporary enthusiasts worked. The introduction of the house's first ready-to-wear menswear collection in 2014, followed by its Spring/Summer 2016 line, expanded the brand's creative horizons, with references to pop culture evident across its products. Notably, famous hip-hop and R&B artists began to tap in, sporting Loewe clothes for the first time, with new generations of fashion enthusiasts following suit.

Unequivocally, Anderson is widely credited with the brand's meteoric rise in popularity and newfound mainstream success. Renowned for his whimsical flair, he knows just how to keep the brand in the spotlight. Who can forget Rihanna's iconic moment at the 2023 Super Bowl halftime show, proudly displaying her baby bump in a bespoke red Loewe ensemble? Or perhaps, it's the white balloon pumps and the deflated balloon shoes (designed with the viral potential of Instagram) that instantly come to mind. Even the "I Told Ya" T-shirt, sported by Zendaya in the Challengers and also in real life, has become a wardrobe must-have. And let's not overlook the recent sensation of Anderson's heirloom tomato clutch, which ignited a frenzy on social media just weeks ago.

While Anderson has successfully steered Loewe onto a new trajectory, he has masterfully retained the brand's very core – a profound commitment to craftsmanship. This explains why Loewe's leather goods continue to maintain their allure today just as they did over a century ago. Take, for instance, the Puzzle bag, now an 'it' bag, crafted from nine different pieces of leather. Or the elegant Gate bag and the timeless Basket bag – a summer staple – all of which are in high demand.

Moreover, Loewe's fashion shows have become highly anticipated events on the international fashion calendar, attracting crowds, especially celebrities who are found gracing the front rows in large numbers, perpetually captivated by the house's penchant for taking risks that always hit the mark!

While Loewe's independent collections are undeniably covetable, the brand is famous for its striking collaborations. One of its most noteworthy partnerships is with the iconic Paula's boutique, which is based in the Balearic Islands and was inspired by Anderson's childhood memories in Ibiza.

Cobranded as Paula's Ibiza by Loewe, it launched in 2017 when Anderson teamed up with Paula's co-founder Amin Heinemann to unveil a capsule collection celebrating the essence of island life. Fast forward to its seventh year this summer, and the offshoot line once again enchants with a new drop, offering a luxurious take on resort wear with versatile pieces perfect for both summers in the city and beachside escapes. Think asymmetric scarf dresses, pastel shirts and playful motifs.

Returning as part of the latest collection are the brand's iconic basket totes, reimagined in new shapes and colours. Meticulously handcrafted by skilled artisans in Colombia and Madagascar, Loewe demonstrates its commitment to these communities by pledging donations for every basket bag sold.

Loewe is also building on its ongoing collaboration with Swiss athletic brand On – a favourite among the active community – this time with the addition of apparel. It is the fifth capsule and for the first time features technical activewear and statement outerwear for all weather conditions, including parkas, puffers and light jackets, alongside its established footwear line, Cloudtilt.


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