‘Flat pack’ usually conjures images of soulless shelving units, not objects of luxury. But, in 2015, one unassuming but impeccably designed bag changed that. We’re talking about the Loewe Puzzle, a cuboid-shaped bag that’s beautiful, functional and foldable – not that you’d want to keep it that way for long; its geometric lines are far more arresting in 3D.
The Puzzle was the brainchild of Loewe’s creative director Jonathan Anderson. As his first bag design for the house – and considering Loewe hadn’t released a fresh bag shape since the 1980s – it needed to be special.
“I set out to find a new way of building a bag, fundamentally questioning its structure,” Anderson said. “It was about deconstructing a conventional bag to create a flat object with a tridimensional function.”
Anderson’s innovative creation, in all its tridimensional glory, was unveiled at Loewe’s men’s SS15 presentation and incorporated into the women’s collection upon launch. With its sharp lines and soft structure, the Puzzle felt both masculine and feminine – a fusion we’ve come to expect from the Northern Irish designer, both in his work for Loewe and for his own eponymous label.
This wasn’t just a bag that looked nice. Its expansive volume was utterly practical, its origami-like structure a feat of craftsmanship. Each Puzzle is handmade in Madrid from 75 separate pieces of leather and takes nine hours – and more than 500 separate actions, including precise cutting, hand sewing and painting – to complete. It is Anderson’s homage to Loewe’s heritage; the Spanish company started out in 1846 as a workshop and collective dedicated to leather goods.
“As a house we are about craft in the purest sense of the word,” he says. “This is where our modernity lies, and it will always be relevant.”
Anderson was right. In just nine years, the Puzzle has assumed an immovable position in capsule wardrobes, becoming something of a handbag icon, sitting alongside the likes of the Fendi Baguette and Dior's Saddle. In black, brown or beige, it’s a quiet complement to pared-back, monochrome looks, as demonstrated by influencers including Jessica Skye and Hannah Crosskey – both proponents of a minimal aesthetic.
It can be conspicuous, too, in sunflower yellow or fiery red – especially when accompanied by a co-ordinating, logo-emblazoned strap. Loewe’s tonal patchwork is reprised season after season, too, in neutrals and pastels and clashing primary colours. Beyoncé and Kate Bosworth have both been pictured with the pink version.
Notably, the Puzzle can be worn five ways – as a shoulder bag, slung across the body, toted by the top handle, or as a clutch (expanded or folded flat). Those seeking further personalisation may change the bag’s original long strap for something more eye-catching – one in Anagram jacquard, for example – and add a crafty new-season charm.
Regardless of decoration, the Puzzle’s beautiful functionality remains intact. Even the Mini and Small sizes are roomy enough for a phone, sunglasses case and wallet – while the original medium is large enough for all of the above, plus a notebook and water bottle. Want a Puzzle that’ll fit the kitchen sink (or at least, a laptop)? The recently launched Puzzle Fold Tote is the newcomer for you.
As with so many of fashion's wardrobe icons, the Puzzle bag has been treated as a blank canvas for artistic creation. Special editions come painted with flora and plant life from the imaginations of artists including Joe Brainard and Ken Price. (Scroll the pages of Vestiaire Collective to score a rare resale treasure.) And, of course, there are Loewe’s three Studio Ghibli collections, each inspired by an iconic film from the Japanese animation studio – and containing specially designed Puzzles. The third and final drop celebrates Howl’s Moving Castle, with the film’s resident fire-demon Calcifer making an appearance upon the sides of Puzzle bags and their jacquard straps.
It is further proof that the Puzzle is wonderful in all dimensions – 2D, 3D and in the fantastical worlds of Ghibli.
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