Sitting on the banks of the Seine on a sunny fall day, waiting for the Chloé show to start, was the perfect reminder of why physical shows will always trump online experiences. For her first runway display with an audience since taking over as creative director of the French fashion house last December, Gabriela Hearst opted for a postcard Paris setting.
Though Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral is still covered in scaffolding, the riverside backdrop could not have been more picturesque, and the presence of Demi Moore and Gillian Anderson added a dash of extra glamour. Moore came with her daughter, Scout Willis, whose debut single “Love Without Possession” was remixed on the soundtrack.
“This collection had to be all about love, which is the driving force into the world for me, into everything I do,” Hearst said during a preview at the Chloé showroom.
As boats sped past, models paraded in elongated outfits in the brand’s signature cream, butterscotch and peach palette, many embellished with handcrafted details. Hearst said she was introducing a Chloé Craft symbol to designate the items at the “top of the pyramid” that showcase the craftsmanship of independent artisans.
“Luxury fashion started to look industrialized to me,” she explained. “So it’s really important to differentiate that, because we know it, but I think a lot of people are losing this realization that certain things cannot be done by a machine.”
The opening look, a cream silk dress with a cutout midriff, was embellished with upcycled metal trinkets from a jewelry workshop. Other dresses were knotted together from strips of silk jersey; macraméd from fabric leftovers; crocheted into a multicolored scallop pattern, or made from a patchwork of vegetable-dyed leather.
Like her signature Gabriela Hearst line, all had the luxe aura of high-end designer goods, but with an added dose of good conscience. Sandals featured multicolored soles made from upcycled flip-flops recovered from the sea, in a partnership with Kenya-based nonprofit Ocean Sole.
Hearst is also working to reduce the environmental impact of the brand’s sales volume drivers, such as the Woody tote bag, which is now made from linen instead of cotton. Meanwhile, Chloé’s new Nama sneaker uses 80 percent less water and emits 35 percent fewer greenhouses gases than its previous Sonnie model.
While the designer is happy to return to in-person events, she sees her show as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on cherished causes. A case in point: Les Bâtisseuses, a network that trains women refugees in ecological construction, which built the brick seating for the show.
“We can make beautiful, desirable product, but at the same time you’re using the platform that you have to tell other people’s stories, to showcase other people’s work,” Hearst said. “There has to be a higher purpose to doing what we do. It gets me excited to work with all these different people that are doing good in the world.”