Holding the first brand exhibition, how LOEWE showcases century old craftsmanship through contemporary storytelling

In the current uncertain environment of luxury consumption, brand changes and replacements have become the norm, but LOEWE seems to be one of the few “contrarians” in the fashion industry. It has been more than a decade since Jonathan Anderson became the creative director, and he is integrating exaggerated and fun elements with high-end fashion, creating a unique aesthetic style for the brand that is increasingly ingrained in people’s hearts.

At the same time, LOEWE, born in the “Arts and Crafts Movement” of the 19th century, continues its reverence for craftsmanship and art in its brand genes to this day. Over the past century, from strict control over product manufacturing processes to the establishment of the Loewe Foundation to support and promote practitioners, Loewe’s persistent practice of the original intention has gradually accumulated into a solid brand core.

Faced with the uncertainty of the times, LOEWE has used handicrafts as a clue, connecting the avant-garde and perseverance, innovation and craftsmanship in the brand’s personality. It is through a positive embrace of change that these seemingly contradictory traits create new vitality in balance. Recently, the brand attempted to recreate a more three-dimensional and rich “behind the scenes” story to Chinese consumers through a large-scale exhibition.

From March 22 to May 5, 2024, LOEWE’s first large-scale exhibition, Crafted World Craftsmanship World, opened at the Shanghai Exhibition Center. This was a comprehensive presentation of the brand’s long history and culture, the spirit of Spanish workshops, and the commitment to handmade craftsmanship.

Jonathan Anderson, who has been in charge of the creative director for ten years, is undoubtedly the person who knows the brand best. He personally planned and appeared on the opening night. This exhibition showcases all of LOEWE’s works that have been connected by creativity, craftsmanship, and art for 178 years, aiming to “pay tribute to all the craftsmen in the world who have contributed and inspired or created on-site exhibits.”

From the perspective of planning ideas, Crafted World is like a three-dimensional handmade book that condenses brand history, allowing visitors to embark on an immersive journey to understand its growth into a modern luxury brand. But LOEWE is not the only protagonist, and the exhibition also provides a window for the outside world to see how the brand collaborates with multiple creative professionals to build a multicultural system that combines innovation, creativity, and exquisite skills today.

It is reported that the exhibition Crafted World is jointly created by OMA and has a total space of 1600 square meters. Different from the conventional parallel tour route design, this exhibition follows the unique indoor structure of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, allowing visitors to climb up while watching the “LOEWE Luo Yiwei Pronunciation Challenge” series of images scattered around, continuously shuttling through different spaces planned around six theme chapters.

The first chapter to enter is the “Born of Craftsmanship” chapter that tells the story of the brand’s “past and present”. The exhibits cover early custom-made leather goods, the iconic versions of Amazon handbags, Flamenco handbags, and Puzzle handbags, as well as the most iconic first travel dressing box customized for the royal family.

With the development of Spanish culture and art in the 20th century, the content of exhibits has become more diverse, including the brand’s first ready to wear series, advertising films, as well as works by Picasso and Spanish film director Amodova. In the modern stage, the brand’s highly discussed “Box Show” in recent years, collaboration with artist Anthea Hamilton, performance costumes designed for Rihanna and Beyonc é, and even art installations displayed in boutiques collectively form the new face of contemporary LOEWE.

Follow the “Sound Tunnel” filled with imaging devices to enter the “Sensory Spain” chapter, with advertising photos and videos created by photographers Steven Meisel, Tyler Mitchell, and Gray Sorrenti playing on the surrounding screens, bringing the scenery of the brand’s hometown Spain to visitors. The six tree shaped pillars in the center of the space surround the Basket and Bucket woven handbags created by the brand in collaboration with Spanish craftsmen. The selected Picasso ceramic works from the collection of art and crafts by Loewe, as well as LOEWE’s Paula’s Ibiza summer limited time collection by Loewe, are also integrated into it.

The “Decryption Workshop” chapter recreates the behind the scenes process of making LOEWE’s iconic handbag. Starting from the design drawings, to the selection, trimming, coloring, and assembly of materials in the leather warehouse, and finally to the final sample testing, this space allows visitors to understand the tedious steps that take hundreds of hours to make each handbag from the perspective of the craftsman. Taking Jonathan Anderson’s first handbag, the Puzzle, as an example, in order to achieve its unique shape while also being soft and foldable, brand craftsmen need to carefully cut and splice over 40 pieces of leather to ensure precise stitching and folding.

In addition, this exhibition showcases a 2-meter-high replica of the “Hal’s Moving Castle” handbag. The LOEWE workshop reinterprets Studio Ghibli’s eponymous film from a brand perspective with iconic handbag elements. The respect for the craftsmanship and spirit of craftsmanship between the two sides has led to several joint collaborations, which is also the idea that this exhibition aims to convey.

The last two chapters focus on the craftsmen and artists who have established extensive collaborations with LOEWE Luo Yiwei over the years. The “Universe Artists” chapter is a complete list of works from the LOEWE Foundation Handicraft Awards and the Milan Furniture Exhibition over the years, along with commentary videos, showcasing creative ideas. The “Unexpected Dialogue” brings together a world of artistic imagination that has inspired LOEWE Luo Yiwei over the past decade. The space features nine interactive exhibition halls, utilizing different digital technologies and art forms, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the fairy tale scenes of Japanese ceramic artist Suna Fujita hidden in the wall, as well as the lifelike Joe Brainard collages.

It can be seen that the Crafted World brand exhibition is a new subversion of traditional brand curation. The exhibition content includes diverse forms, telling the story of LOEWE’s development and changes, while also reflecting the social and cultural landscape of its era. This approach of seeing big from small shows the brand’s reverence and humility towards craftsmanship, which in turn attracts more craft creators to participate and continuously enriches the brand’s connotation.

Therefore, almost half of the content of this exhibition is reserved for artists who collaborate or support it, as well as for local Spanish landscapes and workshops. It is more like a cultural and artistic network connected by LOEWE, where the brand is not in a dominant position, but rather a space for free communication and connection with multiple creative professionals.

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