"Research became the exhibition" at OMA-designed Crafted World for Loewe

Dutch studio OMA has designed Loewe’s Crafted World exhibition, currently on show in Shanghai, which aims to celebrate the brand’s craftsmanship.

Crafted World, the Spanish fashion brand’s first public exhibition, has launched at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre where it is taking over an entire wing of the 1950s building.

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The exhibition is on show at Shanghai Exhibition Centre

Designed by Ellen van Loon and Giulio Margheri from OMA, the exhibition is organised into a series of thematic spaces that aim to highlight the brand’s history of craftsmanship.

This is the first time OMA has worked with Loewe, and van Loon believes the outsider view it brought helped uncover elements for the exhibition that the brand hadn’t thought of.

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Loewe fashion looks are presented in an open-grid space

“When we start working with a brand, we always start research first, we do interviews and archive research, we look at the history of the company and what they are doing now,” van Loon told Dezeen.

“This is the first brand that we do an exhibition with on day one, so in this case, the research became the exhibition. It’s sometimes easier for someone from outside to define who you are,” she continued.

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The exhibition is designed by Dutch studio OMA. Photo is by Frans Parthesius, courtesy of OMA

The exhibition was curated by Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson as “a homage to all the craftspeople around the world that have dedicated their lives to the handmade.”

It features pieces from Loewe’s archive and catwalk collections, as well as objects made by finalists for the Loewe Foundation’s Craft Prize and works by artists who have inspired the brand’s designs.

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Chapter Welcome to Spain celebrates the landscape of the brand’s home country

A room called Born from the Hand greets visitors at the start of the exhibition, presenting key leather pieces from the brand’s history. This is followed by Welcome to Spain, which aims to transport visitors to Loewe’s home country.

A “pronunciation tunnel” connects the two rooms through a stairway, which was directly inspired by OMA’s research.

It features a series of video screens on the ocean-blue walls showing how people from around the world pronounce the brand’s name.

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The idea of a “pronunciation tunnel” comes from OMA’s research

“When we started doing the research, we found a lot of videos on YouTube about how people pronounce the name of the brand, this is something that the brand has embraced,” Margheri told Dezeen.

“We decided to transform one space to push the concept further and make it fun.”

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A leather-making studio was recreated for the exhibition

As architects, van Loon and Margheri felt the urge to incorporate the venue – a historic example of Sino-Soviet architecture – into the exhibition, while avoiding a drastic contrast.

The building has a strong character and we somehow have to deal with that. But we don’t want to make the exhibition without revealing the building,” said Margheri.

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Items from Loewe Foundation Craft Prize were selected for the show

In the first room, two rectangular openings were carved out of the higher walls of the exhibition space, revealing the building’s original columns and metal details.

A similar approach was applied to the room United in Craft, where a square opening in the ceiling showcases an original chandelier.

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Nine rooms were designed to highlight Loewe’s cultural reference. Photo is by Frans Parthesius, courtesy of OMA

Showcasing the existing space helps create new design opportunities, according to Van Loon.

“We are interested in bringing in the context of where it’s gonna be and transform some of the limitations and possibilities that might become design opportunities to give another angle or character to the exhibition,” she said.

The architect believes designing beyond a physical building is “a normal evolution of being an architect”.

“In our mind, architecture is quite rich, it’s unlimited. You can design a building for a fixed configuration, but people start using it over time, it’s an ever-changing thing,” van Loon said.

“It feels very strange when someone asks you to design a building, then in the contract, it says the building needs to be designed for 50 years,” she added.

“Imagine how society changes in 50 years. Architecture sometimes makes space less defined, in order to allow for ever-changing adaptation.”

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A suspended garden sits within a mirrored room

Another of the exhibition spaces, Unexpected Dialogues, features artworks that have inspired Loewe’s collaborations from the past decade.

These include a suspended garden set within a mirrored room informed by the work of English architect, furniture and textile designer CFA Voysey, as well as a recreation of Studio Ghibli’s dreamworld.

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Studio Ghibli’s dreamworld was recreated for the exhibition

A series of knee-high playful mini exhibits for children to interact with can be found at various locations of the exhibition, which Loewe and OMA hope will be enjoyed by different age groups.

Van Loon has recently led the completion of OMA’s first major public building in the UK Aviva Studios, and also previously created a pop-up shop for Tiffany & Co in Paris.

The photography is by Marco Cappelletti unless stated otherwise.

Crafted World runs from 22 March to 5 May 2024 before travelling worldwide. The exhibition is open to the public, and entrance is free. For more events, talks and exhibitions in architecture and design visit Dezeen Events Guide.

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