In her second season at Chloé, Gabriela Hearst convinces the Paris crowd that her take on the maison is truly worth observing and buying into. The show’s guests sat by the Seine, watching the inclusive model casting walk along the Quai de la Tournelle in brilliant sunshine. An accidental audience of Parisian passersbies and a packed riverboat made the IRL event feel even more… real. Somehow, this all felt like a very Gabriela Hearst moment, because the practice of sharing and openness is her all over. “As cheesy as it sounds, this collection is about love,” she said in a preview. “It’s really about the love of so many things: the love of craft, the love of friendship, the love of fellow humans. I literally have to memorize the many different NGOs, because I am working with so many this season.” You get the free-flowing, unforced boho spirit of what Hearst is doing with Chloé from the 31 pictures of the show. What with its summer-holiday caftans, ponchos, lacy dresses, and smattering of boyish pantsuits, the collection is fully in the tradition of the free-spirited Chloé girl brand identity that has been passed down from hand to hand by a succession of women designers, from Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo onward. What’s very different with Hearst is, first of all, the reduced number of looks in the shows: down to 31 from sometimes more than 50. And second, the meticulous and quite formidable way she’s bringing in changes in sourcing, the supply chain, traceability, and environmental and social responsibility to a major Paris fashion brand.
All the information is documented in a Chloé press release and on its website: progress toward what all fashion houses ought to look like internally in this age of climate emergency. At points – when you consider how many women’s organizations and communities Chloé is benefiting through buying strategies around the world – it almost begins to seem possible that this work could even be marking a shift in the entire purpose of a luxury brand’s existence. One step in that direction is that the most exclusive level of Chloé luxury is now being launched as Chloé Craft – a group of products with a spiral logo, denoting, as Hearst puts it, “that only a human hand can make those pieces.” In the spring collection, those hand skills were evidenced in pieces like the petal-pattern crocheted dress and the intricately knotted streamer-harnesses made of strips of leftover fabric from seasons before – techniques created by Akanjo, a social enterprise organization in Madagascar. The chunky seashell and macramé necklaces, as well as baskets that come labeled with the name of the person who wove them, also bear the spiral branding. Shifting the needle toward causing less environmental harm primarily comes in Hearst’s creditable insistence on fabric switching. For example, there’s more linen and less cotton involved in this collection. It’s used to chic effect in the cream pieces, including a generous, Hearst-signature trench coat with a cool heft and whipstitched leather edging. And, more surprisingly, in a great indigo blue pantsuit that at first sight seemed to be denim, but was in fact a beautifully soft, supple linen. Underfoot, as well as the eco-friendly Nama trainers launched this year, a new and delightfully multicolored deep-soled Chloé flip-flop was treading the Parisian riverside quai. In fact, all the pretty pastel layers pressed into the soles were once other flip-flops. “They’re from Ocean Sole, which I’ve been wanting to work with for a long time!” Hearst declared. “It’s a Kenyan nonprofit that collects flip-flops from the ocean.” All the applause from the people of Paris, boat-trippers and fashion audience alike, was well deserved for the progress she’s pushing through.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.