FA SHION HOUSE
JW Anderson is turning his attention from clothes to furniture. By Helena Lee.
“I’m having a very odd relationship with fashion right now,” Jonathan Anderson tells me. “It’s a kind of lovehate relationship.” These are surprising words from the man whose eponymous label J. W. Anderson has recently scooped an unprecedented two British Fashion Awards for womenswear and menswear, and who is the creative director of the 170-year-old luxury label Loewe. “I like the speed of fashion, where you don’t have to overcalculate an idea,” he continues as though to qualify his admission, “but I do feel like I have to digress into other projects.”
We are here to talk about this other project—his foray into furniture for Loewe. Displaying his customary use of bold colour and subversion of the classic, Anderson has taken existing pieces and embellished them using intarsia, a type of marquetry. However, instead of wood, the patterns have been painstakingly created with leather—the material that the fashion house was built on—and each item took six months to make. “I wanted to see how far leather could be pushed. It doesn’t automatically need to be made into a handbag,” he says. “I wanted to reinvent the furniture by using leather for découpage.”
Among the collection are striking drawers adorned with fiery-hued tulips, primary-coloured standard lamps, and screens with scenes of wild waves and jumping blue-silver carp. There are also wardrobes, tables, and cigar boxes (“I think they’re so hyperly chic.”) that exhibited at the Salonedel Mobile fair from April 12 to 17, and then at the Loewe store in Milan. Particularly striking are two chairs from 1900 by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, one of the leaders of the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain. They have been subject to an irreverent but deluxe upscaling: one is clothed in Pop primary colours (“The pattern is quite bad taste—a little bit Miami.”); the other is a barrel chair that has been lacquered with Japanese wax and the raffia replaced with leather.
Anderson took his cue from the Omega Workshops, a short-lived offshoot of the Bloomsbury Group, founded by the painter and critic Roger Fry in 1913. Members would offer interior decoration services, and work over the top of existing furniture, often drawing on the language of the avant-garde to create pieces such as Cubist-inspired rugs. “At Charleston House, there are pictures of [Omega members] Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant painting onto different things,” says Anderson. “I love that the workshops were about this unique collaboration between an artist and a craftsperson, to create this intellectual and cultural moment.” ‘
“My soul-searching with fashion concerns the way clothing should also be a cultural influencer,” he says. “While I like speed, I also need to let things have time to breathe, and that’s why, as a creative director, I have to apply myself to as many things as possible. It’s kind of an addiction.” www.loewe.com
Lily of the Valley wardrobe Koi paravent
Rock Valley coffee table
Wave cigar box
Wave long chair
Tulip and Koi notebooks
Lily of the Valley lamp