The painted wood rendering of the pop star’s pretty head by American artist Paul Pfeiffer was the subject of much tinkering Tuesday morning, when Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson was inspecting the artworks he’d curated for the store, and suggested Bieber’s tattooed arms sitting on a glass case in another room might be situated closer to his head.
The designer, it must be said, is very hands-on.
“I saw this piece at Thomas Dane gallery about a year and a half ago, and I instantly thought we have to have it for the [Loewe] Foundation,” he said. “A lot of artists have looked to Justin Bieber, so I thought there was something to this idea of iconography and being in L.A.”
Anderson hasn’t met Bieber before, but now that he has an L.A. casa, he’s ready.
“It’s so exciting to finally open here. When you think of the environment, the light, Madrid, Spain, the horizon level, it was well overdue. And it’s nice we have somewhere to dress people and for customers to really understand the brand. We’re having such huge traction in America at the moment.”
Indeed, the Spanish luxury brand has been on a red carpet roll, with Kylie Jenner wearing a sheer black Loewe gown for a charity event last weekend, newly minted house ambassador Taylor Russell choosing a waist cutout swagged white dress from the spring 2023 collection for a recent screening of her new film “Bones and All,” and Tessa Thompson, Daisy Edgar-Jones and more rocking the cult rose heels on Instagram and IRL.
“From our website, we know California and the L.A. area are among the top four or five markets in the world,” said Pascale Lepoivre, chief executive officer of Loewe, which has six stores in the U.S., and another opening next year in San Jose, California. “By nationality, the U.S. customer is number three worldwide, and America is our second fastest-growing market to Europe.”
In a further commitment, Loewe will be bringing its annual craft prize to America for the first time in 2023, to New York.
Despite the economic headwinds, the executive is feeling bullish on the future expansion of Loewe, which she still calls an “undeveloped,” and “medium-sized” luxury brand relative to others in the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton stable.
“The South Coast Plaza store has been performing over expectations, we took over Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills with the Paula’s Ibiza collection, and did a pop-up in the Bay Area, and each time the response has been above what we were expecting, not just for accessories, but ready-to-wear. So that’s making us quite confident,” she said of the California market.
Palm-fringed, with an ocean blue, hand-glazed ceramic tile facade, a huge skylight letting the California light inside, and a gallery’s worth of art, the L.A. store has plenty of local touches.
“I wanted the idea of earth and seascape,” said Anderson, looking very Hollywood wearing a sweatshirt gifted to him by producer Amy Pascal after his first turn working as a costume designer for the 2023 Luca Guagdagnino film “Challengers,” which is about young competitive tennis players and stars Zendaya.
“I bought these during the pandemic,” he said during a store tour, pointing to a row of colorful glazed earthenware tiles by the late Southern California artist Doyle Lane, installed within a glazed brown tile wall. “For me, tile really represents Spanish culture. If you look at Valencia and Madrid, tile work is used a lot,” he said, explaining how the store’s multiple tiled walls in blue and brown refer to Loewe’s circa 1846 Spanish heritage.
The retail space features Anderson’s playful men’s and womenswear, including a military green canvas anorak with a Silly String-like rainbow fringe collar, a figure-hugging glove print jersey dress, blue jeans, tank tops and hoodies with the house anagram logo; the latest monochrome bags inspired by the artistry of ancient Chinese ceramics, the popular Puzzle and puffy Goya bags, and the cult-favorite balloon- and nail polish bottle-heeled shoes.
“What’s really working is Jonathan’s unique approach to fashion, which is a blend of elevated craft and cultural content with a good deal of casual playfulness,” said Lepoivre. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Anderson traces his fascination with craft, specifically ceramics, to his grandfather, who collected Delftware from the 15th century. It was influential “being younger and being around someone who was an obsessive,” he said.
“Peter Voulkos did these in the ’70s, and they are so fantastic,” he said of a grouping of wall chargers by the artist who established the ceramics departments at the Los Angeles County Art Institute and at UC Berkeley. “People sometimes forget him in the American moment of studio pottery and I love how you have these kiln bursts.”
On a table near the front of the store, a sculptural pot is filled with equally sculptural dried flowers.
“This is a 19th-century African pot I found recently, and I love that it looks like a basket, and it’s amazing it survived and would have been used,” Anderson explained of the Dogon pot from Mali. “It’s a very historical piece.”
He gestures to furniture by Axel Vervoordt, a rug by British textile artist John Allen and a bright yellow aluminum sculpture by Nasher Prize winner Nairy Baghramian, which resembles a “C,” for California perhaps.
Then his eyes light up on a new capsule collection of silk shirts, sweaters and accessories with animal motifs from the archive of British potter Bernard Leach, including an owl appliqué sweater and shearling Flamenco bag with octopus design.
“He was influenced by Chinese, Korean and Japanese ceramics,” Anderson said of Leach. “And without him…Britain and Europe would not have started this craze for craft…Voulkos was influenced by Leach…we have African ceramics in here. So in a way, this shows what I believe, that you can see the history of the world through ceramics, or the vessel ultimately.”
Anderson is in L.A. for a while. He’s set to host a celebratory dinner Wednesday night at the Chateau Marmont, followed by a party at the historic live music club Whisky a Go Go, which has hosted everyone from the Doors to Janis Joplin to Mötley Crüe.
“I like this idea of being in L.A., right in the middle of it,” he said of the gritty venue. “Because what I love about Hollywood is it’s super shiny and super dark at the same time. When you are in a hotel here, you could wake up and be some crazy actress in the 1950s. There’s a peculiarity I think is so inspiring, a twistedness to it.”
He’s got a trip to LACMA on his list, and a studio visit with painter Julien Nguyen. And he’s seeing film director and friend Luca Guadagnino at the Governor’s Awards on Nov. 19.
There was a time when Anderson, then a student at Juilliard, thought he might go into costume design as a career, which made working with Guadagnino on “Challengers” all the more rewarding.
“He has a respect for me, I have a respect for him. We have a similar approach in aesthetics,” he said of the Italian director whose credits include “Call Me By Your Name” and “Suspiria.”
“People underestimate costume on film and how powerful it is,” said Anderson, who recruited costume legend Sandy Powell for his recent Juergen Teller-lensed pre-collection campaign, along with Guadagnino, Russell and others.
“She’s such an icon. The films she has done are next level. By even doing a very minor, not period film with costumes for 450 extras, I realized she is genius. It makes fashion look tiny,” said Anderson. “She did ‘The Favourite” all cut in denim.…Because of doing the film, I wanted to shoot a real costume designer, not me,” he said.
Having a home base in L.A. now, he’s looking forward to cultivating more relationships like the ones he has with Guadagnino and with Taylor, who was announced as a Loewe ambassador two weeks ago.
“She’s such an amazing chameleon and I pursued her for a long time trying to convince her. She represents someone who is becoming instead of someone already molded,” he said. “When I joined Loewe, I think no one really saw me coming. With her, no one really saw her coming.”
Anderson, who recently launched a capsule through his own label inspired by the classic horror film “Carrie,” is more of a student of Hollywood than one might think.
His dynamite spring 2023 women’s collection shown in Paris last month, with its plasticky fake anthuriums, shrunken doll-like dresses, playful panniers and blown-up shoes, had hints of costume, and Walt Disney. “The shoe was a little Minnie Mouse,” he agreed. “I’m very into things that are all about clarity at the moment. You either like it or don’t like it, instead of just nice clothing.” (Lord knows there’s too much of that.)
“What was interesting with that show, even with the digital tops, which were just knitwear, but when they are shot become something else, was that it was very blunt messaging. The venue was just a white floor with a big flower,” he said. “I’ve done shows where I’ve done a set to make the clothing. By stripping away you have to prove yourself.”
When he’s not bidding online for ceramics, Anderson has been streaming season 2 of “White Lotus.”
“Mark White is one of the most genius writer/directors.…The way it’s written or ad-libbed…it’s so refreshing to watch something that doesn’t feel formula,” Anderson said of the HBO show, but just as easily could apply to his own work in fashion.
Could Anderson one day add Hollywood director to his list of multi-hyphens?
“No,” he laughed. “I already feel like I’m directing all the day.”