A completely darkened venue envelops LOEWE’s AW2017/18 Women’s presentation, a textural collection that plays and expands on what the house has accomplished with leather, interspersing it with a melodramatic element that is evident in the photographs by Sri Lankan pianist and artist Lionel Wendt (1900-1944) and the rare orchids dotting the space.
The collection is a continuation. The dislocating void of the setting hints at the uncertain state in which the character of previous seasons returns. Where will she go next? How does she survive? Tension lurks beneath a veneer of composure. A heroine, astray, holds on to mystery.
The dark set heightens and prepares the senses for contrast-rich garments defined by an interplay of texture, form and shade: concepts of natural, technical, see-through, solid, simple, complex, hard and soft meld and complement each other as nylon, cotton twill, washed silk and burgundy leather, among other materials, collide sometimes in a single piece. Shiny black napa and matte black suede are combined to rich effect. Satin finds a fabulous foil in corduroy.
Silhouettes are constructed to interact with the venue, which itself informed the design process. A game of trompe l’oeil ensues, as more than one ensemble explore the tonal spectrum from charcoal grey to pitch black and looks seem to partially dissolve into the nocturnal background.
Fabrics veer away from the rawly organic toward the more technical and things aren’t what they appear to be. An oversize coat covered in polka dots has been treated to be completely waterproof, shrouding its wearer in a graceful line while protecting with advanced insulation. LOEWE explores the idea of femininity and experiments with formal. The result are floor-length dresses cut and manipulated to new configurations. A sumptuous organza and organdy design conceals a zipped canvas back, while a strapless gown features detachable balloon sleeves.
A ‘tuxedo jacket’ in chenille comes with detachable feathered cuffs, giving it both a bespoke sensibility and modern practicality. Elsewhere a puzzle of fragments with the same print plays with the hand and weight of different fabrics. Throughout, asymmetry creates tension.
Labour is evident in a dress pieced together from different-sized, individually dyed silk squares. Seemingly mismatched looks are designed to respond to and come alive in movement and light. Techniques include needle punch, smocking and an artful gold engraving method borrowed from bookbinding, applied here on the cuffs and collar of an exquisite column dress. Gingham and other prints come in various scales. Lace, fur and laser-cut details add intricacy and depth.
Whereas in the past bags may have added a note of whimsy, this season they serve the opposite function, normalising looks and grounding the austerity of the clothes in reality. New introductions are the Midnight bag, LOEWE’s take on a classic drawstring, and a day-to-night clutch seen here in a large black crocodile iteration and with intarsia dots.