“It’s a tactile store,” Jonathan Anderson said as he guided a visitor around Loewe’s refurbished boutique on Avenue Montaigne on Tuesday night, pointing to a wall-hanging that looks like a painting, but is in fact stitched from colorful threads. “Each time, we add a different layer to what Loewe is about.”
Ceramics, tapestries, rugs and vintage furniture heighten the residential feel of the two-level store, reflecting Anderson’s mission to bring culture and craft into the retail experience.
“Art is a way to tell people about me and to understand who I am, and people who I think are important and inspire me,” he explained in an interview, seated on a blue whipstitched Utrecht armchair by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, his sneakers resting on a colorful carpet by British textile designer John Allen.
No sleek, minimalist temple for Anderson, a fan of the Arts and Craft movement and an enthusiastic cheerleader for basket weavers, tapestry makers and potters.
He’s fascinated by the fact that famous midcentury sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore dabbled in textile art, and a tapestry Moore made for the British pavilion at the 1948 Venice Biennale gets pride of place behind the Georgian-style spiral staircase that is the main architectural detail of the store.
“I like things that are a bit cozy. I like light that changes throughout a store so you have darker areas, moodier areas,” he said. “A boutique should unfold into different little zones, so you don’t feel like you’re in a vacuous space. I hate anything that feels like a mausoleum.”
Ditto overly bright stores.
“Harsh lighting can be really unflattering. I hate when I go into a store and it feels like you’re in the bathroom of an airplane,” he said with a wry grin.
Anderson is also bringing artsy and cozy elements to a new Casa Loewe store in Lisbon, slated to open Nov. 26, and a new boutique in Honolulu, programmed for Nov. 26. Meanwhile, a refurbished Miami location is slated to re-open later this month as the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned brand updates the network. Most of it has been completely redone since the Northern Irish designer joined the Spanish house in 2013. Recent new locations include Shanghai, which quietly opened in late September.
The unit in Miami’s Design District, slated to be unveiled during the Art Basel Miami fair on Nov. 29, boasts a striking, large-scale wall drawing by Sol LeWitt that wraps the entire store in graphic bands of primary color.
Anderson explained that Loewe worked with the Paula Cooper gallery to acquire the plans and rights to recreate “Wall Drawing #1138,” a work from 2004.
An 18th-century stone granary building, known as an hórreo in Spain, had been the main feature when the Miami unit opened in 2015, then Loewe’s first retail location in North America.
Anderson hinted that the hórreo will become the centerpiece of a public art project to be unveiled next year.
The designer collaborates closely on stores with Loewe’s in-house architect Paula Aza Custodio, who carved out a double-height ceiling dressed in maple wood slats for the revamped Avenue Montaigne unit, which is flanked by men’s and women’s Dior boutiques.
Pausing in front of a until full of velvet-lined niches — some sheltering leather goods and jewelry, others hand-painted vessels — Anderson brushed some white lint from one of the cubicles, showing off his meticulous approach to displays.
The designer worked in visual merchandising at Prada under the late Manuela Pavesi before launching his JW Anderson label in 2008.
“I’ve always had this thing for the visual communications of a brand, and I think it’s super important — this whole world that you’re trying to let people into,” he mused.
The 2,300-square-foot Avenue Montaigne boutique employs rugged, natural and sustainable materials including concrete for floors — and wood, clay and artisanal ceramics for display podiums. A few cubes in clear Perspex, once used as seating for a Loewe runway show, are stuffed with everyday objects such as Brillo pads.
All the artworks in Loewe stores are acquired and owned by the maison, and Anderson said he and Aza Custodio have found themselves at many provincial auctions snapping up artworks and design objects.
Indeed, Loewe has already put together such a collection of Picasso ceramics that the designer is mulling an exhibition for them.
Works in the Paris store include a large painting by American artist Walter Price; a stoneware sculpture by Japanese artist Takayuki Sakiyama, and several works by Cape Town, South Africa-based artist Zizipho Poswa.
Anderson also draws on participants in the annual Loewe Foundation Craft Prize, established in 2016, to fill its boutiques with unique objects. A wooden bench by Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley, finalists in the 2019 competition, stands in the Paris store, as does a sculpture by the winner of that year. Inspired by a bag of oranges, the blob-like object by Genta Ishizuka was realized with a lacquer technique dating back to seventh-century Japan.
The Miami store features a display of almost two dozen black ceramic vessels and jars by Japanese artist Kenta Anzai, along with more Utrecht chairs, bright wool carpets and transparent cubes filled with imitation fruits and pom-poms.
All works and objects are chosen with specific boutiques in mind, and Anderson said materials that are available locally are favored to reduce the environmental impact.
He also exalted the portability of artworks and design objects of a scale that would be found in private homes.
“We can move things around,” he said. “It means we can keep reinventing the store.”