Gabriela Hearst for Chloé: Here’s a designer casting that’s easy to get your head around, and one that seems to be clicking right out of the starting gate.
Companies of varying stripes and scale are leaning into brand DNA in these destabilizing times, and Hearst’s debut fall collection honored Chloé’s legacy of breezy, natural femininity — and the house’s ambition to be as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible.
The show was dedicated to founder Gaby Aghion, 100 years after her birth. Aghion was a pioneer in staging off-the-cuff fashion shows at such Left Bank haunts as Brasserie Lipp, one of the locales in Hearst’s collection film and famous for the bold, writ-in-red disclaimer at the top of its menu: No Salad as a Meal.
No worries: This American in Paris, a serious foodie, served up a substantial, varied and likable collection, faintly earthy and outdoorsy in its natural colors and meaty fabrications, but also light and frothy like the Chloé of yore in silky blouses with scalloped hems and Empire-waist slipdresses sprouting ruffles or streamers.
During a preview, Hearst recounted her personal history with the brand, its Edith satchel her first luxury handbag purchase 16 years hence, and the signature perfume a longtime favorite. “The love I have for this brand is completely authentic,” she enthused.
She absorbed everything you probably associate with the brand — the equestrian tinges, the bohemian flair, the flattering, peachy colors and the insouciant spirit — and gave it her own spin, favoring past-the-knee silhouettes and thoughtful details like ceramic buttons and scalloped cuffs on knitwear.
Hearst submitted a 92-page proposal when she was approached for the job, and it included a host of recommendations for achieving greater environmental sustainability — the raison d’être of her signature brand, founded in New York in 2015 and already synonymous with eco luxury. She noted proudly that her debut Chloé effort is already four times more sustainable than its last fall collection, with 80 percent of the cashmere items — from gaucho-worthy ponchos to slinky and colorful or creamy tube dresses — made from recycled yarns.
She also made good on her promise to never make women suffer with footwear, her models striding confidently over rain-slicked cobblestones after dark, past the mythic cafés of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Her proposal included an ode to a recently extinct butterfly, which she exalted in an intarsia sweater that’s pretty, luxurious and very Chloé. Hearst really should make an audio hangtag exalting the reason for buying something like that.
“It’s really important to illuminate the subject of insects because nobody thinks about insects,” she said. “They’re pollinators, and they’re the decomposers of our planet. And we don’t realize how much they do for us and for the environment.…The reason you’re choosing an organic fabric and paying a premium is because they’re not using herbicides and pesticides. So that has less effect on our insect world that is suffering the same mass extinction that we’re seeing in other kingdoms. If insects go away, it’s environmental collapse and no recovery.”
The designer also gave a platform to the growing homeless problem, donating leftover printed fabrics to Sheltersuit Foundation, which makes weatherproof coats-cum-sleeping-bags and donates them to those in need. The gesture added a heartwarming touch to this confident show.