Thursday, 3 May 2012

The craft of Loewe

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The expertise and meticulous detail that go into crafting iconic Spanish luxury brand Loewe’s bags was recently revealed in the release of its limited-edition book, Masters of Leather and further enhanced by the accompanying Matthew Donaldson short. Through Robert Clarke's illustrations and Donaldon's video we explored the story of a Loewe bag. Both diverted attention from the materials and tools, and instead played personal homage to the leather workers who have handmade Loewe’s creations for generations. So often unsung, it is impossible not be captivated by the passion and know-how of these skilled individuals. Engrossed by the accumulated wisdom of one hundred and six five years that guides every pair of hands in the Loewe atelier as they experiment, cut, stretch and craft, we jumped at the opportunity to visit them at their Madrid base. Over a period of thirty six hours we explored the Flamenco heart of the House, looked back on its origins, evolution and learned about its hopes for the future. Now, we've already featured our delve in to the House's well stocked archive and today it is time to share the sights from its workshop.

Led around the workshop space, I eagerly followed and snapped away at each well honed and practiced process as various bag components took shape before my wanting eyes. Whilst feeding my addiction to shots of true craftsmanship in action, I was drawn to the creative dynamic that uniquely exists between the artisans and the design team. Rather than merely produce from design blueprints handed down from above, it was quite clear that the creative process is one of collaboration and experimentation. Talking to Nowness late last year, Loewe's Creative Director Stuart Vevvers revealed that this position is "the first time I have been so close to the people behind a brand," before sharing a telling tale. "In the winter '09 season I worked with one of the master modelists who had been at Loewe for 50 years. As an experiment I didn’t do any design and just described what I wanted—he would go away and make something, then come back and I would be like, “Maybe a bit more round.” I’ve never done that before. The piece that came out looked like it had been designed." The House truly harnesses the knowledge of its leather craftsmen in the creation of its range of luxury leather goods. A cycle of designs being given, drawings tweaked, various prototypes expertly formed, scrutinised, alterations made, replacement prototypes shaped and further experimentation plays out before a more fully realised bag begins to take shape. It is a process that I've not been privy to before and I loved it... 


Long before the finest leathers are even cut, the bag has passed through countless processes of creation, scrutiny and collaboration. Now, I've been fortunate enough to have visited a number of workshops and factories but this is craft that is often unseen or overlooked. It is this stage that really makes Loewe luxury. Each stage is practiced with thought and love. Whilst enthusiasm and pride were two traits  clearly on display by the craftsmen, I was particularly pleased to see the mix of experience and youth on display within the workshop and to see how they drove one another forward. The future is bright. Long live these artisans.


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