Bohemians, out; street-smart girls with attitude, in. A big swing for the house of Chloé and probably no surprise, given Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s well-known CV: Before signing with Chloé as creative director last March, the ultimate, uber-cool Paris fashion insider had spent her entire career with Nicolas Ghesquière, who sat front row. She skyrocketed quickly from intern to right arm during the Balenciaga days and then joined him at Louis Vuitton as creative director of women’s wear.
Backstage at Chloé’s sparkling new headquarters — beautiful but too small for a major show — Ramsay-Levi basically repeated the approach she identified when she took the job. “It’s about [appealing to] the personality of the woman,” she said. “You just draw the lines of the silhouette, but you don’t draw a total look. It’s more to build, you say in French, “le sens et forme,” — the shape and the content.”
Yes and no. The collection presented a good variety of ideas, some of which drew on the work of her designing predecessors. Victorian dresses are a core from way back; riding elements were introduced by Stella McCartney. There were dresses with tarot symbols, a nod to safari, linear shirt-and-pants looks that she described as “more pop,” and jeans cropped and cuffed below the knees.
Yet very clear threads ran through. Clare Waight Keller’s boho romance has left the building, replaced by attitudinal grit — and more than a hint of Pont Neuf futurism. Bottom line, much of Ramsay-Levi’s Chloé too closely resembled Ghesquière’s Vuitton.
That’s not to suggest she’s a copyist; significant aesthetic convergence is inherent in any long-term creative collaboration. After 16 years, how exactly to define the divide between the two? If the line is blurred beyond clarity, how does the number two in the original relationship claim ownership, even if justified, or move on?
Finding the answer will be essential for Ramsay-Levi going forward. So, too, will making sure that, in its new cool sportswear mind-set, Chloé continues to telegraph luxury. The Chloé woman wants to look contemporary but only in the modern sense.