Should you ever require a crash course in sustainable fabrics, look no further than Gabriela Hearst.
The designer is keen to share her encyclopedic knowledge of environmentally responsible materials not only with her new teams at Chloé, but also with the world at large: the press notes for her resort collection included a full page listing all the different permutations of organic, recycled and certified fabrics employed.
Rummaging through racks of clothing at the Chloé headquarters in Paris, she points out dresses made from hemp jersey, deadstock cashmere jackets and coats, and a trouser suit in a linen corduroy. “I get excited with fabrics. You have to excuse my nerdiness on this,” she shrugs.
Though it’s only her second collection for the French fashion house, lower-impact materials make up 55 percent of the ready-to-wear offer. In addition, 15 percent of the collection is manufactured by member companies of the World Fair Trade Organization.
The collection features Hearst’s first forays into sneakers and denim, the latter developed with industry veteran Adriano Goldschmied. “I’ve always admired his work, and he’s so committed to sustainability after working his whole career in cotton and denim,” she explains. “He’s someone that is passionately looking for a solution.”
Available in eight fits and two washes, the circular denim collection is made from deadstock material and all the rinses are done by laser. Buttons are crafted from corozo, also known as vegetable ivory, and the pockets are linen.
Hearst is weeding out cotton wherever she can, including from the lining of handbags. Not only does the fabric require large quantities of water, pesticides and insecticides, but it has no nutritional value unlike, for example, flax, from which linen is made.
“I really am thinking on this line of overpopulation. Crops that we grow, they should have nutritional purposes,” she reasons. “My preference is to stay away as much as possible from cotton, unless it’s deadstock, and if you have to, it must be organic.”
Still, she knows from experience with her eponymous luxury line that green credentials can’t be the main selling point of her collections: the product has to be desirable, first and foremost.
Her white deadstock cotton eyelet dresses have all the sweet romance one has come to expect from Chloé, and chime with this season’s inspiration: the 19th-century pre-Raphaelites, whose art was a response to the dehumanizing effects of the Industrial Revolution.
Hearst sees a parallel with the current challenges of the climate crisis and the digital revolution. “And I find this craft, this new kind of renaissance, feels very true to the moment,” she says.
Handmade details abound in the collection, from a dress top braided from strips of leftover fabrics from previous collections to a colorful poncho made from recycled cashmere. Hearst also designed her first sneaker, featuring colorful stitching that gives it a crafty feel reflecting its eco-credentials, including a 25 percent recycled midsole.
For those not ready to buy into that aesthetic, there were plenty of classic Chloé pieces: a lean denim dress with a scalloped leather trim; a trenchcoat with a white broderie anglaise leather border, and silk shirts with a chain print — a bourgeois staple for sure, but one that carries special meaning for the designer.
“I have this romantic notion, but I think it’s quite real, that when you work for a heritage brand, you should always view yourself as a link in the chain,” Hearst explains. “You should always make sure that your vision is a long-term view, past your time, to make sure that you’re helping to build something.”