Should anyone need reminding of how far Clare Waight Keller’s Chloé has come since her first collection in Spring 2012, the appearance of a Chloé-clad Daisy Ridley at the L.A. premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December was about as persuasive as it gets: The girl of the moment from the movie of the moment wearing what has surely become one of the labels of the moment. There’s something apposite in the title of the latest installment of that intergalactic yarn as it pertains to the 64-year-old French house. Chloé has indeed awakened, though Waight Keller’s transformation has perhaps been more Gentle Rousing From a Dreamy Slumber than Bolt Upright in Bed, S*!t I Need to Hit the Floor. (Leave that to the likes of Alessandro Michele at Gucci or Jonathan Anderson at Loewe.)
Instead, Waight Keller (who follows fellow Englishwomen Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, and Hannah MacGibbon) has preferred to take a slow-burn approach, conjuring up a brand of soft romanticism that happily coexists with quirky, offbeat color palettes and tomboyish streetwise gestures. The results are a paean to the diaphanous, the slouchy, and the artfully mussed center parting. Surely it’s no coincidence that her Chloé hit its stride, circa the Fall of 2014, when street style had taken its most vivid, attention-deficit OTT turn for the worse. Finally: Here came Waight Keller offering welcome relief from retina-destroying 3-D prints, studded accoutrements, and enough hair colors to make Pantone turn 196U blush pink with envy.
On the subject of social media, the designer herself is of the opinion that “it can be a bit of a trap; you can design something that can look amazing in an image, but is actually challenging to wear. I want to design something that you’re going to look and feel fantastic in in a photo, but also works in real life. It’s about not being disappointed in reality.”
One gray-skied Paris afternoon during the Spring 2016 couture shows, taking a break from presenting her Pre-Fall, Waight Keller charted the evolution of her Chloé for Vogue.com, picking her personal best from her absolute favorite shows. She might not want her Pre-Fall collection all over the Internet just yet—the label is in the same camp as Proenza Schouler and Céline, withholding images of it until just before the clothes are in store. “I think you have to be careful in keeping a bit of mystique and an element of surprise,” she explained, “in not getting tired of things too quickly.” Yet she was more than happy to share what got her to where she is now.
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