Stepping into most Loewe boutiques in the past six years has been a starkly different experience than before. I vividly remember the look of Loewe's 2013 flagship at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. It was covered almost entirely in various hues of wood, with a solid dark-wood table placed right smack in the middle of the boutique's entrance, an assortment of the house's leather bags neatly displayed on it. And in the background was a wall arrangement of bags floating atop a glass-top display. Step further inside and one would be flanked by more of Loewe's collection of leather goods, each side dedicated to either the men's or women's segment.
Product was the main focus of Loewe boutiques pre-creative director Jonathan Anderson; it is, after all, the reason why physical boutiques exist in the first place. But that age-old concept no longer works in an era where shopping for luxury can be easily done online. A luxury boutique needs to function more than just an avenue to push product and sales, and Anderson fully understands this.
"The idea of Casa Loewe is a living space, it is reflective of the collection. It is a moving space, not something precious like a gallery; it is more of a home landscape," Anderson tells me.
It's this approach to a luxury boutique—one that would typically very often seem intimidatingly imposing and elitist—that has softened both the interior and the vibe of each space.
Anderson often credits Kettle's Yard as the place that has, in some ways, informed the vision for Casa Loewe. "I like that it is someone's home that is as well a museum," he enthuses. The Cambridge house was home to art collector Jim Ede and his wife Helen from 1956 to 1973. The series of four 19th-century cottages was renovated and converted into a single house with the help of architect Rowland de Winton Aldridge. Ede would then open the house to the public, especially university students, every weekday afternoon during term for them to explore his vast personal collection of British art.
There are certain similarities that Casa Loewe and Kettle's Yard share, namely in the way that they both are inherently more than just one thing. While the latter's natural light-filled, white-walled interior is a well-curated assortment of British art laid out quite precisely as part of a home, Casa Loewe's similarly neutral space meshes together Loewe's craft-centric collections with equally artful menageries of Anderson's own curation of art. The artworks that share real estate with Loewe's own fashion and home creations vary in each Casa Loewe boutique. Yet, even if they may seem incongruous at times, the overarching idea of craft ties them all together and tells a story of how craft—in its many different forms—is central to the house.
When asked about the considerations he makes when selecting artworks for Casa Loewe, Anderson indulges, "I think the art that always inspires me is art that is based within the craft world, such as ceramics, textiles, etc. It is very important to Loewe because it's part of our foundation and our DNA. These are artists that really inspire the brand and it is important that we continue to support artists."
Anderson started the annual Loewe Craft Prize in 2016 (the 2020 edition marks its fourth but has been postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19) as a celebration of craft and to acknowledge as well as support the talents of artisans. Entries from all over the world are welcomed to take part each year. In fact, previous winners include 2019's Kyoto-based lacquer artist Genta Ishizuka and 2017's German-born Ernst Gamperl—who impressed the jury with his oak containers—while Singaporean artist Ashley Yeo was one of 30 finalists in the 2018 edition. Other than being exhibited in dedicated Loewe Craft Prize exhibitions each year, selected works have also been fixtures in Casa Loewe stores worldwide.
The first-ever Casa Loewe boutique debuted in Madrid, Spain back in 2016. It was then followed by a string of openings in 2019 beginning with London, followed by Tokyo and Beijing. Singapore's Casa Loewe will be the first in Southeast Asia. "Singapore has, for long, been a key destination for the development of Loewe in Southeast Asia where we have been present for over 25 years. Singapore has a unique positioning in the region, offering a wide range of services and attractions that makes the country extremely attractive for both the local and the surrounding countries. Opening a Casa Loewe in Singapore is then a natural step in bringing to the country the full Loewe universe," explains Anderson, who was last here in 2016 to grace the opening of Loewe's Paragon boutique.
There's little doubt that with the Casa Loewe boutique in Singapore's ION Orchard—the largest in Southeast Asia—that the same sense of familiarity is set to permeate through. The nods to the original Loewe stores as designed by Javier Carvajal, the inviting interiors that seem to be constantly bathed in natural light, the harmonious exchange of dialogues between branded craft and those created by other artisans, and the all-encompassing experience of being sucked into the Loewe world are all elements that make a Casa Loewe boutique feel homely and remain present in the new boutique.
The 340-square-metre boutique will be home to familiar Casa Loewe furnishings such as John Allen carpets, benches by Loewe Craft Prize 2019 finalists Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley, and Conoid Cushion chairs by George Nakashima. In addition to that, Casa Loewe Singapore will also exhibit the works of nine international artists. 'A Positive Light' by American textile artist Josh Faught will make its way to Singapore after a run in London and Beijing, sharing the same space as works by Japanese artist Shihoko Fukumoto and British ceramicists Betty Blandino and Nicholas Homoky.
An area in the entrance of Casa Loewe Singapore has been dedicated to act as a pop-up space. It's here that further art projects as well as the house's special capsule collections that it does quite often, will make their presence known.
It begs one to wonder if Anderson already had an extensive forward-thinking plan at the start of his appointment at Loewe, to architect a seamless transition from leather goods to ready-to-wear to craft and then to home fragrances, for them all to be housed in one space and in a manner that makes total sense. It may be rather far-fetched a theory, but I won't be entirely surprised if he did.
The Case Loewe Singapore boutique is located at 01-11A/12 ION Orchard.