What do Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo have in common? Each of them saw their magnificent potential flourish under the auspices of fashion house Chloé. A tradition of talent which lives on today under Hannah MacGibbon. Here is the story of the label which invented ready to wear luxury.
If the value of a fashion label can be measured by its creative heritage, then Chloé’s is perfectly assumed by the career of its founder. Gaby Aghion was 24 years old when she left her native Egypt to conquer Paris. It is crucial here to consider the context of the time period in order to totally appreciate just what this young girl with her serious beauty and unfettered character was about to create.
It was 1952 and fashion houses at the time were producing more modest clothing. However, a distant scent of freedom and boldness was starting to be picked up by the most perceptive of noses. The Egyptian designer was desperately trying to encourage the rejection of this sartorial coldness and stiffness with the creation of her own label, which she baptised not in her own name, (which she felt was too fortune-teller) but with the delicate and light name of one of her friends. The name has become common today, but it was very unusual at the time. Without realising it, Gaby Aghion's choice of the Greek name which literally means ‘blooming,’ essentially sealed the fate of the Chloé brand's vocation.
The first collection was very simple, yet marked a massive turning point in the history of fashion. It started with dresses tailored in poplin cotton. Gaby and her partner Jacques Lenoir had invented a word and a concept which became part of our daily reality: luxury ready to wear. The clothes were immediately available, the need for alteration was minimal, the fabrics used were of excellent quality and the cuts were impeccable. Chloé offered feminine, soft pieces which hung beautifully off the body. What a success! The designer began to recruit young talents who would go on to become famous in their own right over time. But it was one in particular who really lit up the label with his talent...
Karl Lagerfeld had been discovered a few years earlier by Balmain. He had always hated the idea of confining his talent to only one fashion house. He was already trying his hand at freelance styling and his work was taking him all over the world. In 1966, he started at Chloé. The fashion house became one of the most symbolic labels of the 1970s and Lagerfeld was in charge of the label’s creative direction for 20 years. In 1985, two years after the departure of Lagerfeld for Chanel, Gaby Aghion sold Chloé to prestigious luxury goods group Richemont. Although talented stylists like Martine Sitbon instilled the fresh and feminine image of the brand, sales began to slow down.
Called upon once more by Chloé, Lagerfeld helped the label to get back on its feet again. The arrival of Stella McCartney in 1997, along with her assistant Phoebe Philo, left the fashion world wary: many were dubious about such an obvious marketing ploy. However, the daughter of the Beatles’ frontman quickly established her slightly offbeat romantic vision. The sales were mind-boggling. Phoebe Philo succeeded her as creative director in 2001 and her two year stint was equally a huge success.
On the March 10th 2008, Chloé added another jewel to its crown. The talented Hannah MacGibbon was made artistic director. Her designs for the spring/summer collection were a variation on the theme of dance and were tailored with a beige colour scheme: the collection was decidedly romantic and married two aspects which are rarely placed side by side – maturity and lightness. A heritage which has been beautifully passed on.
Chloé, 44 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris. Tel. +33 (0)1 4723 0008
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