Clare Waight Keller Picks 6 Favorite Looks That Transformed Her Chloé
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.
“I think the thing that really helped me hone my focus here was this dress: It was in a very Chloé fabric—crepe de Chine—but also it was a different statement about flou, about big volumes. They express what this brand is about: fluidity and freedom, feeling feminine but effortlessly so. It’s just that sense of naturalness, that kind of unapologetic This Is Who I Am.”
“Always in the back of my head I’m thinking, ‘Who’s the boy? What’s the boy element of this collection?’ This coat nailed my expression of a new kind of Chloé girl, the boyish side of outerwear, which I’ve always come back to since, again and again.”
“This was about how we could make lace modern. I wanted to bring something graphic and modern to the fabric. it’s completely engineered to work with the construction of the dress itself. It’s not just some Chantilly lace. People think Chloé is soft and romantic, which it is, but to actually wear those clothes, and to carry them off, you have to have a confidence about who you are. When I’m casting the show, I find it hard to cast really green girls. I like them to be interesting, to have something about them. Even our fit model in the studio—she’s studying to be a lawyer.”
“This collection was the turning point for me, when all the elements of what I’d been doing came together. I made the leap to start using denim. It’s part of the Chloé heritage, but I wanted to express it in an aspirational way. I was really working on the silhouette, and waiting until I felt it was the right time to unleash the denim. As a fabric it says so much—the boyish side, the urban street side. There’s a mix of high-low, but it doesn’t feel forced or try to be too trendy. It’s just really about looking absolutely right for right now.”
“I love patchwork. There is something about it that has a real artisanal element, that it comes from real craft. I like that it allows you to do color in a really interesting way because you can mix so many different, clashing elements. It ends up looking poetically beautiful and less precious at the same time.”
“Pants are iconic for Chloé, and for me, they’ve always been a way to create a counterpart to the feminine Chloé girl. The attitude is important each season—how you show the boyish side. This was one of my favorite looks from the show. It evokes so many memories of what I’ve always loved wearing, then putting it with this rainbow blouse with the pompoms and the flying tassels. There’s something flying about a Chloé girl. She’s always moving, never still.”