PARIS — More than a fashion entrepreneur, Gaby Aghion opened doors for women on their path to equality.
This story first appeared in the October 3, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That’s how speakers remembered the cofounder of Chloé at her funeral here on Thursday. Aghion died on Saturday at her home in Paris at age 93.
Her son, Philippe Aghion, a prominent French economist, described his mother as a live wire who loved to laugh, spar with intellectuals and challenge the status quo.
“She created Chloé for the emancipation of women,” he told the family members and past and present Chloé employees who gathered in the leafy Montparnasse for the open-air ceremony amid balmy weather.
And even after she sold her shares in the business and retired, “she wanted to know everything that happened in fashion,” Aghion marveled. “A great lady has left us.”
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Ralph Toledano, who was chairman and chief executive officer at Chloé from 1999 until 2010, said Aghion was a true innovator: the inventor of the role of artistic director, the first to claim the Left Bank of Paris as her fashion milieu and the first to stage fashion shows in cultural haunts such as Café de Flore and Brasserie Lipp.
“She brought a lot to the métier,” Toledano said. “She illuminated the path for women and showed them how to be equal in front of men without losing their femininity.”
A pioneer in luxury ready-to-wear, Aghion created her first collection in 1952. Alongside Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior, Chloé is seen as one of the key French fashion brands founded in the postwar period.
Chloé’s chairman and ceo, Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, said Aghion’s positive energy and passion for the brand radiated through the company’s revolving cast of designers and managers.
The Egyptian-born designer had a simple vision: using fine fabrics to create feminine, alluring clothes that required minimal alteration. She saw them as an antidote to the stiff formality of couture and a new option for women as they increasingly entered the workforce.
In the Sixties, Aghion engaged young Left Bank designers, including Christiane Bailly, Tan Giudicelli, Graziella Fontana, Maxime de la Falaise, Gérard Pipart and Karl Lagerfeld, who logged some 25 years at the brand in two separate stints.
In more recent years, a series of young British women held the design reins: Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo and Hannah MacGibbon. Clare Waight Keller, its current creative director, also attended Thursday’s service.