PARIS, France — Women who dare… let’s take that as an emergent theme in Paris. Clare Waight Keller’s new collection for Chloé was inspired by Anne-France Dautheville, a French journalist who, in 1972, rode her Moto-Guzzi 750 from Paris to Afghanistan, then, the following year, undertook a 12,500-mile, three-continent ride on a Kawasaki 125.
Those were obviously different times. When Dautheville crossed borders, she had to make her own visas. But Keller fell in love with her can-do attitude — “I think it’s so relevant for now,” — and managed to fashion a convincing collection out of the paradoxical extremes of her story, from motocross leathers and romantic ruffles to huge ponchos which might once have been the carpets or blankets Dautheville found on her travels.
They actually brought to mind another woman who dared: Marianne Faithfull, starring on screen as Girl on a Motorcycle and in scandal as Girl in a Blanket (which was all she was wearing during the notorious drug bust at Keith Richards’ house in 1967). In her dewy heyday, Faithfull would have been a dream client for Chloé, Keller’s floaty tiers of chiffon ruffles always the perfect accessory for a mythical Summer of Love.
But here, they were also an element of Dautheville’s journey. Keller found photos of her wearing big dresses while she was riding. There were other, more obviously ethnic pieces which conveyed a richly textured sense of things collected, talismans, souvenirs of her adventures: the patterned tunic, the voluminous beaded smock decorated with dozens of buttons, the carpet patterns, the multi-coloured tufts that Keller lavished on a white muslin dress.
Then there was all the practical stuff: capes, fleeces and sweaters, as well as the biker leathers. The curious dynamic of the collection was highlighted by one catwalk pairing: a black leather jumpsuit was immediately followed by a romantic froth of lilac and lace. Keller’s message was clear: a woman who dares to be tough can equally dare to be delicate. The intriguing duality gave her collection a lot more spine than usual.
And the music of Prince, always dancing devilishly with ambiguity, seemed like a most appropriate accompaniment.