A hard-working, long-serving star is born. Cheers rang out at Chloé for new designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi, whose modern – and very French – take on the whimsical, Flower Child generation was cheered to the echo.
The loudest clapping came from front-row guest, designer Nicolas Ghesquière, who described the emotional moment of seeing his right-hand woman at Balenciaga and at Louis Vuitton step out on her own after 16 years. But there was pride, too, that his protégée could have achieved such a flawless start to her new career.
The most important and powerful quality of the pretty mid-calf dresses, decorative tops with shorts, and elaborate sweaters with hug-me-tight jeans was that it was all ineffably and deliciously French – the world of exquisite macaroons and discreet sexual allure. In a fashion industry that prides itself on its global reach, the designer achieved that most difficult of styles: local and global. It came in the free-flowing hair and subtle make-up, but also in the attitude.
“For me it’s very, very French and that means very cinematographic – like it’s worn by a lot of actresses in French movies,” Natacha said. “That’s the first thing.”
“I also think that Chloé is a brand that has to be affordable in its comprehension,” she continued. “It has to be easy to understand. And it is also important that it works with the personality of the woman. It’s not just to draw a character but to give a woman the possibility to express her own personality. It’s really the mix and match between these two.”
So what was the designer’s star quality? Probably her sophisticated use of decoration, which often had reference to Chloé’s history, but used differently in the 21st century.
Ever since the late 1990s, the house of Chloé has hired British designers – from Stella McCartney through Phoebe Philo to outgoing Chloé designer Claire Waight Keller – who brought an easy attitude but seldom captured the insouciant, youthful elegance of the new arrival.
Geoffroy de La Bourdonnay, the company CEO, should be congratulated for nurturing the previous stars, but especially for choosing the new designer for a brand shaped from 1966 and through the 1970s by rising star Karl Lagerfeld. The executive had a word to say about the new focus on a more Gallic attitude.
“The French woman has the world à pied – at her feet,” de La Bourdonnay said, explaining the reason why so many Asian women, for example, have warmed to the brand.
So what was so great about the show? Primarily it was the ease with which Natacha melded decoration with modern cutting. Then there was a blending of hard and soft in a bodice peppered with rivets yet with soft flaring sleeves. A sporty ease bonding with prettiness worked well.
Most striking of all, the designer said all this in just 21 looks – a mere bagatelle by the standards of current shows.
Were there traces of her previous fashion life? Probably, in the square shoulders, mannish trousers and maybe in the imaginative bags. But this was a Chloé moment. And the best of fashion debuts.
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