Natacha Ramsay-Levi envisaged her first pre-fall collection for Chloé as a bridge: an opportunity to anchor the house codes she riffed on in her debut last season, and to introduce some ideas for her upcoming fall display.
Playing with layering, she contrasted two types of silhouettes: the flowing, boho shirtdresses that are one of the brand’s signatures, versus an upscale version of activewear combining men’s tailoring with an accumulation of cropped pants, leggings and athletic socks — and a killer high-top sneaker.
“As soon as I arrived, the first thing I was asked to do was to design a sneaker,” said the designer, who joined the label last year from Louis Vuitton, where she was Nicolas Ghesquière’s right hand.
The Chloé version of the now ubiquitous footwear staple, which also comes in a low-top version, features a deep sole and zigzag nylon straps. “These chunky soles that give you a boost, yet keep you grounded, make for a very strong attitude. I think it’s important today to be able to stand tall and be active,” said Ramsay-Levi.
The same attitude pervades the clothes, with wardrobe staples like blanket capes, silk shirts, peacoats, riding jackets and flared pants piled on in seemingly effortless combinations. Among her inspirations, she cited pell-mell Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave and Marvin Gaye.
“What is brilliant about men’s clothes is that they are unfussy,” she said. “Basically, men’s clothes have a functionality that is pretty perfect.”
Hence, a Prince of Wales check coat was worn over an oversized sweater vest, houndstooth turtleneck and cropped pants with cuffs, with the white version of the high-top sneakers adding a pop of urban dash. Among the Cave-inspired looks was a Sixties-style navy trouser suit with an elongated jacket and cropped flares.
That is not to say Ramsay-Levi has totally turned her back on the bohemian signatures established by her predecessors.
A floor-length cream shirtdress with scalloped hems was layered over a shirt printed with an archival pattern from the Seventies reign of Karl Lagerfeld, while a horse print — embroidered on a white blouse or printed on a cute mini bucket bag — nodded to Stella McCartney’s epoch.
And she added her own esoteric twists, placing patches with tarot drawings by Rithika Merchant on items like an oversized polo shirt dress, and scattering gold rings like lucky talismans on handbag chains, belts and jangly multifinger rings.
But at the core, these were clothes for a woman on the go. This is something that Ramsay-Levi believes is as deeply anchored in the Chloé DNA as the boho aesthetic, noting that founder Gaby Aghion designed a shirtdress that featured a men’s collar and cuffs.
“Today, the notion of comfort in clothes is essential,” she argued. “I think that explains the success of sneakers and activewear, leggings and turtlenecks. It’s about how you play with these elements, while maintaining the effect of a stylish silhouette.”