Profile: Sheila Loewe, of Spanish luxury fashion house's fifth generation

The head of the Loewe Foundation tells Angharad Hampshire she's just an ordinary Sheila.

Angharad Law
Sheila Loewe. Photo: May Tse

Loewe was founded in 1846 by my great-great-grandfather, Enrique Loewe Roessberg. He emigrated from Germany to Spain because he was a craftsman working with leather and Spain was known for specialist leather curing.

I was born in Madrid, the middle of three sisters. My upbringing was very normal. My parents didn't want us to think we were at all important despite being well known. My mother is Spanish. My father's mother was Irish and my grandfather, who turned 102 (late last year), is half German and half Spanish.

When I was born, my father told my mother that he had a wonderful Irish aunt called Sheila and that, in her honour, I must be called that name. In Spain, it is a difficult name. You write it and people always mispronounce it as "Shayla". As it turns out, the Irish aunt doesn't exist. I asked my father about her one day and he confessed he'd made her up to add force to his campaign for the name. Actually, I am the only Sheila in the family!

I have two (young) sons. I have purposefully called them very easy names to say in Spanish: Juan and Pedro.

I didn't ever really want to study law; I just didn't know what to study and my mother, who is the boss in the family, suggested it. My university results were so good that I won a scholarship and ended up doing a master's. That was amazing, because I got to live in Heidelberg (in Germany) for a year. It's a beautiful and romantic city. When I returned to Madrid, everyone expected me to work as a lawyer but I didn't want to sit at a desk leafing through papers. I asked my father to help me find a job but he refused. At the time, I thought he didn't love me enough. Now I am a mother myself, I understand that he wanted me to find my own path.

I always wanted to work for Loewe. It was my dream but my father didn't like the idea of any of us working for the company just because of the family name. He thought we should have our own professional experience and recognition. I saw an advert for a marketing and sales assistant at furniture designer Vitra and went to work there, ending up as their marketing director. So, I did have my own career.

Sheila Loewe's big love is Madrid. Photo: Grand Tour/Corbis

When my father retired, I received a call asking me to take over the Loewe Foundation. It's a cultural foundation that supports Spanish poetry, dance, photography, music and design. In 2012, I took over as director. My father has an intellectual soul. He loves music, design and literature. And my grandfather and father have always believed that it's important to give back to society. One of the foundation's first acts was to set up the Loewe Foundation International Poetry Award. It's now the most important Spanish-language poetry competition in the world. I love dance more and we sponsor the Spanish National Dance Company.

When I was 32, I went to Buenos Aires (in Argentina) on holiday with my sister and a friend. Before we went, a friend in Madrid gave me the number of a contact called Angel, to call if we needed help. We were three single girls and we'd heard that the Argentinians were handsome and irresistible, but we kept meeting men who were gay or married. So, I mustered up the courage to call Angel. He turned up with a friend and we all went to dinner. Eight months later, he came to Madrid and we started to go out. Just over a year later, we got married in Buenos Aires.

I love Madrid. In Spanish, we have a saying, "From Madrid to heaven". We are very open, friendly and welcoming, unlike (residents of) other big cities. My husband has a commercial property business in Buenos Aires. Really, we ought to be living in Argentina. He is the hero of the family because he travels back and forth. I stay in Madrid and look after our children, as well as working. You never know where life will take you, however, if I have the choice, I will stay in Madrid. I miss my husband madly when he's away, especially when I am up in the night with the boys!

In the week, I am really busy and have to attend lots of cultural events. At the weekend, though, we don't work. We spend time with the children and play sport. We love cycling with the kids in bike seats.

I came to Hong Kong on our honeymoon in 2008. We stayed in the InterContinental Hotel, in Kowloon, and I sat and gazed at this city's beautiful and striking skyline. I am back again now … and I wish my husband could be here with me. He is crazy about architecture and spots details I never see.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Sheila Loewe