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Meet Ms. Chloé

Profiles
Portrait of Clare Waight Keller.

BY JESSICA MICHAULT

Something is happening at Chloé. The French fashion house has long been associated with feminine style—and continues to be. But in the last three years since Clare Waight Keller has taken over as creative director, the iconic Chloé girl has been transformed into a modern, fresh woman.

“Yes, I would say she is now a woman,” confirms Waight Keller, “but she still has the spirit and the energy of a girl. And I think that is what the Chloé woman is all about. She has that spark of vitality, a spontaneity about her and she is always a little bit quirky.”

chloe fall 2014 runway chartreuse dress

It is perhaps Waight Keller herself who has added that appealing dash of quirkiness into Chloé’s winning equation. Her collections show a natural and seamless blend of French sophistication with her own British roots. “I don’t think I could not have that element in there,” admits the designer. “It’s now this mix of a sort of casual sporty Englishness and French chic; it is something that I really love exploring.”

chloe baylee fox fur bag

Since her appointment in 2011, Waight Keller has used the wealth of experience she garnered during her years as creative director at Pringle of Scotland and her time alongside Francisco Costa and Christopher Bailey as a senior designer at Gucci during the Tom Ford era.

Already, the blanket coats from Chloé’s Fall 2014 runway show are must-haves for the season, closely followed by the intriguing dresses she designed to be held together by gold medallion adornments. Waight Keller even gave a classic wardrobe staple, the blouson shirt, a modern twist by inserting broad lace circle patterns into the silk fabric. The entire collection has an undercurrent of something a bit more daring than anything she’s done in the past.

chloe fall 2014 oversized pink coat

It’s a sensation the designer confirms was intentional, as she was inspired by images of Anjelica Huston traipsing through the hills of Ireland in the early 1970s. “All of the scenery and landscapes around her were very wild and rugged,” Waight Keller explains. “And she was often photographed in these shaggy textured coats and big boots. I just felt that there was something about that atmosphere, that attitude, that felt really new and modern.”
But the catwalk isn’t the only place Waight Keller is pushing herself. She just launched the brand’s new fragrance, Love Story, which happens to be the first scent she ever helped create—an eye-opening process that delighted her with its complexity. How the slightest change in ingredients could instantly transform the aroma, the primordial importance of the look and feel of the perfume bottle, and the way the scent changed on the skin were all aspects of the process that fascinated the designer.

chloe fall 2014 white sweater

In the end, the fragrance she fell in love with is an Oriental yet floral mélange of orange blossoms with notes of jasmine and neroli. “There is a real mystery and depth to it and it changes as it develops over time,” she says. She also designed the bottle to echo the look of the padlock hardware from the brand’s iconic Paddington bag. It’s a clever choice, as it equally brings to mind the Parisian tradition of couples symbolically “locking in” their love by snapping padlocks onto the railings of the Pont des Arts and then throwing the keys into the Seine.

chloe baylee python bag

The designer, a mother of three, credits being “super organized” as her secret to balancing work and family life. She also is committed to traveling to far-flung locations with her brood so that she can spend quality time away from work and to soak up new inspirations. When she can’t get away from the office, a trip to an art gallery is the next best thing to get her creative juices flowing.

“I really make time for that,” Waight Keller says. “I make sure I am always going to exhibitions and galleries to go and look at the work that is out there.”

chloe fall 2014 leather pants

It’s this passion for art that has lead to Chloé’s latest collaborative effort. The brand has teamed up with Studio Voltaire for its biennial House of Voltaire pop-up shop that opens in London in November. The store will be filled with limited-edition Chloé designs that Waight Keller created with artists such as Cao Fei, Karen Kilimnik and Jenny Saville. There will also be pieces for sale that blend the talents of fashion brands like Sibling and Simone Rocha with artists such as Jim Lambie and Kim Gordon, respectively.

chloe daena python pump

“The money we raise will support artists in residence and an art education program,” says the designer proudly.

Clearly, Waight Keller’s nurturing and supportive nature is not just bringing Chloé back to life. It is helping the fashion house evolve into the womenswear brand it was always meant to be.

 

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