I interviewed English artist Robert Clarke for LOVE Magazine in line with his collaboration with Loewe.
Spanish luxury label Loewe has collaborated with British illustrator Robert Clarke on a brand new book, entitled Loewe: Masters of Leather. The completely hand-illustrated book pays tribute to the tremendous amount of work that goes into each and every Loewe product, which are also made entirely by hand. We grilled Clarke on Spanish pastimes, superhero costumes and artist super teams.
LOVE: How did the collaboration with Loewe come about?
RC: It was by chance, really. I know Julie Brown, who runs MAP, and she has a really good relationship with Loewe. By chance, I happened to be in New York at the same time as Lucia from Loewe. So, they hooked us up and we got along really well. Pure chance.
And a little bit of talent obviously.
Oh yeah. Well, you know… [He laughs]
Did you get to work with Stuart Vevers directly at any point?
My pitch was shown on a Wednesday, and I got a call that day at noon telling me to get on a plane. It was literally that quick. I got to meet Stuart straight away, and he took me through his vision of the company, and he was great — just lovely. He’s really positive and energetic, and he gave me total autonomy, so the next time I saw him was when I was giving them the finished book! It was one of those rare, joyous jobs.
What’s something about the Loewe operation that you didn’t know previously?
Well, I didn’t realize it was such a big company and such a small company, you know? When I went to see the artisans, I didn’t realize how close knit it was. It was a real family thing — everyone knows everyone — and there’s a real sense of quality. There’s exactitude in everything they do.
Can you sum up your time working on the project using a song title?
Yeah. I think Radiohead’s ‘Just’ would be a good fit, because it was one of those just perfect jobs. I was trying to think of something clever, but… Maybe I’m not that clever!
Since you created the entire book by hand, how many times did you make a spelling mistake and have to start the page again?
The truth is that I was going fine up until I did the translation of the English version and had to do the book in French and Spanish. Now that was seriously shit!
The book features artisans’ handprints — were any of their hands too big for the page?
Funnily enough, we were going to do the book eleven by eleven inches, but one of the brothers in one of the double spreads had really huge hands. They were eleven inches from palm to middle-fingertip, so we had to make the book twelve by twelve inches! Paco’s the one who started working on the Amazona in 1975. I think it was his first job, and he’s still working on it to this day. See? That’s what’s so lovely about the whole thing.
If the colour scheme in the book were a cocktail, what would it be?
Probably a tequila sunrise, because it’s got a bit of pink in it; it’s got grenadine in it, and a bit of orange. It’s all those zingy colours.
Do you have a favourite spread?
I think the hands… I like the black inverted stuff. The hand page was my ‘Guernica’. It was my homage to Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, even though it had nothing to do with the civil war. It was my Fashion Guernica!
Do you have any treasured memories from your time in Madrid and Barcelona? Did you get a tan? Drink cava? Eat paella? Have a siesta?
Yep — got a tan, had some cava. I was having that really delicious, really expensive black ham for breakfast. I was doing proper Spanish things, like sleeping in the afternoon… Wait, I wasn’t sleeping in the afternoon! But I was generally living like the Spanish do. There’s a sense of calm — no sense of urgency — which is why I think quality is such a big deal there.
Can you speak any Spanish now?
I picked up a little bit…
Do you know what the Spanish word for Spain is?
Spain… It’s ‘España’, isn’t it?
Did you just look that up?
No way! [He laughs]
If you were a cartoon character, who would you be and why?
Well, I spend a lot of time in the doctor’s, so maybe Bugs Bunny. You know, “What’s up Doc?"
If you could pick a few of your favourite artists — dead or alive — to be on your football team, who would they be and why?
Erm… I’d pick Ingres, Degas, Braque, because they’re all good at the back.
And in mid-field, I’d have de Kooning, because he’s all over the place. At the front, I’d have Jackson Pollock, because he’s a fantastic dribbler.
I put a lot of thought into that one!
So, if drawing were your superpower, what would your costume look like?
Maybe a plane black smock with no underpants at all.
Not even underneath?
Oh wait — definitely underneath. Steady on!
Would you carry a Loewe man bag?
I’d carry a manly bag, not a man bag!