balancing acts

How a Designer Balances Two Labels Simultaneously

Jonathan Anderson.
Jonathan Anderson. Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

At last week’s Condé Nast Conference in Florence, Jonathan Anderson sat down in front of an audience of luxury fashion CEOs, marketing executives, and company directors. During an onstage interview with Suzy Menkes, he explained how he balances his own successful brand, J.W. Anderson — part-owned by LVMH — with his role as creative director of Loewe.

Menkes wanted to know how collections for two different fashion brands could be managed by one imagination, and the solution seems to be all about streamlining. “When I first started at Loewe I wanted [the two labels] to be different — I wanted them to be bipolar in that way,” explained Anderson. “And then I realized it would be better to take people on the journey with me throughout the season, because it would be kind of ridiculous to pose one thing and then say, ‘Actually no, a week later I don’t believe in that anymore.’ So for me, it was just trying to find who the Loewe man and women were, and to redefine the J.W. Anderson man and woman, so that they could co-exist inside my head.”

Part of defining the Loewe customer has been a process of honoring the label’s Spanish origins, while also paring back its nostalgic marketing. “It’s very difficult to step into a house that hasn’t got your name on it — it’s a hell of a lot of responsibility,” said Anderson. “When I joined Loewe, my biggest issue was that they used the words ‘Madrid 1846,’ and I felt it was too literally descriptive. … I tried to clean and reduce it to the point at which it was Loewe and that was it. It was not ‘Here is a red dress, here is a bullfight. I work for the tourist board.’”

But Spain itself has remained a source of inspiration for the designer. Anderson talked about family trips to Ibiza as a child, and described it as “a little hallucinogenic”: “You’d see women on the beach and men on the beach, and it was very liberating — there were almost never clothes involved! …When I joined Loewe, my thing was that I wanted it to feel light. I wanted it to feel like it had a modernity and a freedom. Like cotton — why wasn’t cotton being used?”

Though Anderson is one of the industry’s youngest success stories — he’s still only 30 — it was clear from the interview that he doesn’t suffer with much self-doubt. “I’m very dedicated,” he told Menkes. “When you take on this volume of work, you have to believe — for me it has to be done. It will always work … I’m just doing the journey to that point, and you deal with what’s along the way — but I know in the end, it will be exactly what I thought it would be.”

How a Designer Successfully Balances Two Labels