Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)
Loewe’s Hands Of Spain
With ‘Hands of Spain’, the 166-year-old Spanish luxury accessories brand sets out to share its country’s culture, heritage and camaraderie with the world, one expertly crafted piece of leather at a time. T Emirates speaks to Loewe’s CEO Lisa Montague to find out how.
By Priyanka Pradhan
“It takes close to 12 hours, and over 130 different pieces of leather, for our craftsman to make one classic Amazona bag by hand,” says Lisa Montague, chief executive of the Spanish luxury brand, gesturing as she speaks towards an in-store artisan who is expertly cutting, sewing and hemming a bag for us to see.
The tapestry on display is a part of Loewe’s ‘Best hands of Spain’ project, which has been traveling the world to celebrate the country’s cultural heritage.
Montague says: “We at Loewe talk a lot about our craftsmanship, and we want to emphasize what is special about Spain. When you read the papers, it’s all about the European crisis and tough times, but at this point we want to highlight what we can celebrate about Spain.”
Loewe has collaborated with a number of indigenous Spanish brands such as the espadrille-maker Castañer and traditional fan-makers from Valencia. Montague explains: “The fan-makers chose a specially-made hand-carved ebony wood and a beautiful fabric to make the ultimate fan for Loewe.
We then made a special case for the fan, crafted with our finest leathers. Then we also have the ‘Mantón de Manila,’ which is a tradition from Seville, where we took the iconic pattern, added elements from Loewe from our own Manton archives and colored it up on our own. It’s a fresh, more modern interpretation of the traditional ‘Mantón de Manila’ of Spain.”
The response so far, Montague says, has been great. “People have responded so emotionally to the project,” she exclaims. For a brand whose soul lies in its 166-year-old history, the challenge is to be accepted as a ‘modern’ brand, while retaining its traditional aura. Montague says the brand endeavors to constantly update itself, to keep pace with the changing times and evolving consumer needs.
“Take digital communication, for example,” she says. “Our Galeria Loewe in Barcelona is so edgy and state-of-the-art! It is a ‘modern-tech’expression of a museum of Loewe, with projections, digital versions of the prints and drawings, holograms of the craftsmen making the products, and giant digital tables where you can drill down as much information as you want about the history and heritage of the brand. To me, this is the perfect combination of tradition and history, through technology.”
She continues: “Coming soon is our ‘Tales of Spain’ project, which is all about prints and using our traditional scarf prints to interpret them on leather. We’ve digitized them, mixed and patchworked them, chopped them up and reassembled them to make it quite exciting for the modern consumer.”
But when it comes to collaborations, Loewe is not following other luxury and designer fashion houses by going down the high-street route.
Montague emphasizes: “Loewe is still a very well-kept secret… it’s a niche brand, really. Right now, for us, I don’t think high-street collaborations will work, because we have to uphold the quality of the brand and its products. We can’t do that without compromising the quality of the leather, which we would have to do to price it according to high-street brands. I can see the argument for that, though – there is great merit in these collaborations for some brands, but not for us.”
However she goes on, “We’re collaborating on another level. For instance, we’ve announced a high-design collaboration with Tokyo-based designer Junya Watanabe, to celebrate the Year of Spain in Japan (2013-14) with a capsule collection of accessories and clothing.
“For us, this is the perfect marriage between a strong luxury brand and a fashion ‘god’ in terms of cutting-edge design. This clash of cultures and the creativity from this collaboration will be very interesting to watch out for, going forward.”