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The New Chloé, An Exercise in Orthodoxy

Gabriela Hearst’s debut was excellently executed, but the new Chloé looked like old Chloé, reports Angelo Flaccavento.
Chloé Autumn/Winter 2021. Chloé.
Chloé Autumn/Winter 2021. Chloé. (Filippo Fior)

A poncho and boots at Chloé? Tons of neutral tones? Empowered femininity with not a hint of androgyny? Gabriela Hearst’s debut at the creative helm of the revered French house had a feeling of continuity rather than disruption. It looked like the Chloé we are accustomed to imagining: a merging of different tenures, from Phoebe Philo to Yvan Mispelaere and Hannah MacGibbon, including the seasons anonymously designed by the studio team. In this sense, it was an exercise in orthodoxy — excellently executed, with warm engaging textures and lots of tempting knits moving from clothing to slouchy bags — but not at all surprising.

In a second, the incongruous angularity of Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s tenure was gone, together with the edginess and the stompy boots, but the new Chloé looked like old Chloé. On a Zoom call post show — the collection was filmed on the streets of Saint Germain at night, with a cast of models coming out of Brasserie Lipp, where Gaby Aghion, the Chloé founder who would have been 100 years old today, used to stage her first presentations — Gabriela Hearst stressed there was no deep dive into the archives: there was no time for that, as she literally had two months to put the collection together. Yet, having been a loyal Chloé customer over the years, she admitted having a subconscious familiarity with the visual language of the house. It showed.

Autobiography is another Chloé staple: a brand designed by a woman talking to women. And Hearst herself modelled the show’s last look, while the opening poncho was a nod to her coming of age on a farm in Uruguay.

Disruptive it was not, but for sure this debut came with a clear vision of where the brand should go — particularly when it comes to sustainability. In order to progress, however, Hearst must find a better balance between responsibility and a deeper sense of aesthetic daring.

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