Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Picks from Loewe's archive

Loewe - Archive Feature

France has Hermès and Louis Vuitton, Belgium has Delvaux and Spain has Loewe. All are luxury leather brands that have become well crafted institutions in their own lands whilst attracting the aspirational glances of us all. Last week, myself and Susie were invited to experience Loewe in its birthplace of Madrid after toasting the opening of its newly renovated store on Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona and having been one of the first to experience the multimedia experience that is Galleria Loewe. 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. In the coming week or so we will post a number of features (including an epic on its artisanal workshop) but for the opening piece we wanted to introduce you to Loewe before sharing a few of the items that caught our eye from their well stocked archive.

Before we talk about its unique napa as soft as velvet or its artisans that are so skilled they can make super-soft unlined bags where the interior is as perfect as the exterior, the first real question when faced with the "Hermes of Spain" is, and this something that has stumped me before, is how to say it? The answer is “low-ay-ve.” With that out of the way, we can continue. Founded in 1846, it is one of the oldest purveyors of luxury leather goods in the world. From its beginnings in a tiny workshop in Madrid in 1846 to its global standing today, Loewe has carefully stitched its reputation on the passion and skill with leather that has been handed down from generation to generation. Conceived in a narrow back street, a group of leather artisans struggled to meet demand for tobacco pouches, coin purses, boxes, bags and cigar cases. In 1872, Enrique Loewe Roessberg forges his expertise in leather with that of these local craftsmen, with such success that by the 1890s, aristocrats are finding their way to another small street, calle del Príncipe, and the first shop to bear the Loewe name above the door. Inside, everything is made-to-order, custom created to the whims and fancies of the ladies and gentleman of the court.

In 1905, as wedding fever griped the Spanish capital, the new King and Queen, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia - the latter the niece of Britain's Queen Victoria – granted Loewe the honour of the official title of “Supplier to the Royal Court”. For ladies, a handbag in iguana, crocodile or snake from the firm, now helmed by the founder's son, Enrique Loewe Hilton, it become the ultimate symbol of elegance and refinement. Throughout the “roaring twenties”, the smart set flocked to Loewe stores in both Madrid and Barcelona for dainty handbags for the ladies and, for the discerning gentlemen, vanity cases stocked with the necessities for shaving, fashioned out of silver. Long before the Flamenco or Amazono were even conceived, Loewe produced all manner of trinkets of luxury, from travel trunks in all sizes, embossed photograph albums in which to record lazy days spent at San Sebastián and Santander to tobacco music boxes. It is this era of luxury that interests me most today. Below are a selection of items from Loewe's archive that captured my imagination...

A wooden tobacco music box in pressed leather decorated in an intricate gold leaf border.

A religious gift presented to King Alfonso XIII

Two stunning card holders.

A time before our reliance on google maps... a map case with the original map and compass inside.

A document holder from 1955.

A travel case concerned with offering everything a gentleman could ever need.
Marking down the days Loewe style.

The above selection might feel as though they are artefacts of forgotten time but production of Loewe's handmade goods has changed very little since the Spanish company's first store opened in 1846. The only real difference is that the House has evolved from offering just small leather goods to crafting all manner of accessories, ready to wear, made to measure and even perfumes. Today, Loewe represents the very best of Spanish luxury with over one hundred and sixty stores worldwide. Inside its recently renovated store (designed by Peter Marino) on Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona I was drawn to a shrine of made to measure menswear. What more could a man need?

Dressing each morning would be so much more fun with one of these at my disposal.

1 comment:

Izzy said...

Nice. These are very Downton Abbey!


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