The Royal Baroque riding schools of Spain. Of all the diverse, disparate inspirations quoted by designers as the root of their collections, Stuart Vevers' latest for Loewe is undoubtedly the most original. Yet, as soon as his sleek, ponytailed models began to strut out onto his Autumn/Winter 2012 catwalk, it made perfect sense.
Loewe has always been about crafting clothes for thoroughbred women - exquisite leather, the finest silk, a fur or three dozen. Here Vevers focussed on a sporty slant, to bring that luxury bang up to date. There were hints of dressage gear and of the tack box in the hard leather jockey's caps, the tooled bridle-leather belting and the minute, waist-cinching panels forming the back of an hourglass jacket that could do double-duty as a riding habit. The palette throughout was black, enlivened by shots of fleshy tea-rose pink in printed silks and a fur that played off straightened Mongolian lamb against curled in frou-frou marshmallow layers, creating something soft through something savage. The general shapes were easy, full circle skirts and cropped jackets, sometime varsity-style with contrast leather sleeves.
What Stuart Vevers does at Loewe is terribly clever. In fact, it's the perfect example of how to build on an existing brand's heritage, constantly delving into the archives and culture that inspired the original and finding a new path to tread to update that identity. The idea of Spanish saddlery and the excellence of the nation's leatherwork informs all of his designs, finding new ways to treat skins and new combinations for fabric and leather, as well as reinterpreting Loewe's Amazona handbag season after season. This time, the Amazona was stretched to new proportions, while leather was constantly reinvented. Most creative were the closing numbers, where the details of a riding jacket were embossed in relief into the hide to leave a raised impression of tailoring across a sleek garment. The past, brought bang up-to-date.