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October 18, 2017
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Loewe's Gold Collection campaign. Source: webuomo.jp.
Loewe's trademark Amazona bag.
Source: loewe.com.

From the streets of Paris to the suburbs of the American Midwest, the LV monogram might very well be the most ubiquitous high-end logo gracing leather bags. But not in Spain. In Madrid, the L-monogrammed luxury label of choice represents a different name: Loewe.

If you haven't heard of it, or don't know how it's pronounced ("low-ay-ve"), you're not alone. While the brand has long been a cornerstone of Spanish high-end fashion, and part of the LVMH portfolio of brands since 1996, it remains relatively unheard of outside of Spain. 

But that's changing as Loewe gains traction in a shifting global luxury market. According to Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, in an interview with the New York Times, "[Chinese consumers] are trying to differentiate themselves and not have the same logos and the same brands that have been so popular for the last ten years."

It's a trend being seen across the board - in Asia and around the world - as consumers shift from ever-present high-end brands towards lesser-known, even locally famous names. And, for that reason, Loewe believes it has an advantage. Explains Loewe's CEO Lisa Montague to the Wall Street Journal, "There are whole swaths of the globe where Loewe is not present, and that includes many of the most established luxury goods markets."

Spain is not one of those "swaths." Loewe is a staple in the Iberian country, with its purveyors' roots reaching back to 8th-century Córdoba when the crowns of Europe praised the brand's leather. It wasn't until 1846 that a group of Spanish artisans opened their own shop, followed by the entrance of the brand's namesake - German craftsman Enrique Roessberg Loewe - in 1872.

...even though Loewe is going global and forms part of an international luxury conglomerate, its heart still very much remains in Spain.

Since then, Loewe has ridden the course of Spain's highs and lows. It became an official "Supplier to the Royal Court," then a symbol of possibility during and just after the Civil War, when few could afford such luxuries amidst poverty and an uncertain future. The Loewe website, recounts the brand's promise through the story of a woman whose husband "recreated the Loewe windows in the privacy of their apartment to give his wife somewhere safe to dream."

In the years to follow, Hollywood came, bringing celebrities - from Cary Grant to Deborah Kerr and Ernest Hemingway - to the Gran Vía flagship store. And in 1975, with dictatorship in the rearview mirror, Loewe launched its most iconic creation: the Amazona bag. Now customisable, the Amazona continues its reign, transcending Spanish trends and generations. 

Enter today's Spanish crisis in which the unemployment rate is 26 per cent and the country's economy teeters on the verge of collapse. And yet the Loewe brand continues to survive, if not thrive. During the last four years of economic downturn, sales have in fact grown, largely as a result of Asian tourists making purchases at Loewe shops across Europe (perhaps in search of those relatively unheard of luxury labels). 

And with the global leather goods market having cashed in some US$33 billion in 2011, Loewe logically looks to a future of growth. Over the next three years, the goal is to double 2011's revenue, which reached roughly US$261 million. The brand plans to do this by increasing "global presence" via shops in over 32 countries, including a recent opening in Dubai and soon near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Spanish actress, Penelope Cruz, for Loewe.
Source: loewe.com.

It's not just the brand's sales and perseverance that provide hope for the future either: Loewe has committed to growing its Spanish factory in the outskirts of Madrid, developing a school to train new workers, and in turn creating 180 new jobs over the course of the next three years. While this won't come close to making a dent in the nation's unemployment rate, the fact that Loewe is growing and using local talent points to the strength of the brand, and ultimately the value of the people behind it.

So it should come as no surprise that, even though Loewe is going global and forms part of an international luxury conglomerate, its heart still very much remains in Spain: Oscar-winner Penélope Cruz is the face of its latest marketing campaign; and these days its still-famous window displays capture shoppers' imaginations with an Andalusian horse-stable theme replete with colourful equestrian-inspired bags. Loewe couldn't be more Spanish.

Says their website: "For Spaniards, luxury IS Loewe, whether we are talking about heirlooms passed through generations; an iconic Amazona bag that has remained contemporary for over quarter of a century passed from mother to daughter; or leather and suede clothing which gets better the more it is worn." Indeed, just like its products, Loewe still stands the test of time, getting better as it ages, and taking Spain - and now perhaps the world - along for the ride.

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