Sustainability is also priority for Gabriela Hearst, whether it’s her New York-based brand or Chloé – the Parisian house. “We think about the climate crisis, we’re able to see the climate crisis,” Hearst declared. “But now it’s time to start visualizing climate success. And there are many ways of doing it. Rewilding is one of them.” More than any other high-fashion designer, except for Stella McCartney, Hearst invites discussion, inspection, even, of how she sources her materials. Which meant that a fundamental divergence between the positions of these two climate-activist fashion designers opened up at the beginning of the show. Here for autumn-winter 2022 there was leather. A lot of it. Not “vegan leather” or any of its fruit or mushroom substitutes, or its fossil fuel-derived polyester lookalikes, but actual glossy leather-leather. Made from the hides of cattle. “For me, leather is a by-product of the meat industry,” Hearst said in a preview. “So, as long as you know where it’s coming from, and you have traceability and it’s done in a proper way, you’re using waste.” Her leather comes from Italian suppliers, whose tanning processes are compliant with European environmental standards. Over to how the overture to the collection looked: strict, minimal, black, brown and yellowy-tan leather pieces, ranging from coats to shirts to narrow jeans – with an of-the-moment white tank tee – and a belted black dress with balloon sleeves. The show hewed between boy-tailored pant suits, fit-and-flare dresses, and Hearst’s characteristic affinity for ponchos and knitwear—and for searching out links with socially-responsible textile projects. The latest is her commissioning of the African-American Gee’s Bend women quilters of Alabama. The storied artist community used Chloé deadstock scraps to fashion blankets and the gilet layered over a coat worn as the finale by Amber Valletta. On the runway, Hearst wanted to materialize the hope that damage can be reversed. She did it with recycled cashmere knitted sweaters and skirts. On the front were instarsia images of melted glaciers, arid and burning landscapes. On the reverse: pictures of green mountain ranges, forests and polar bears. The only thing that misses the mark is the lack of lightness. Chloé is a French brand that is all about the flou – and Hearst, it seems, just doesn’t want go that direction. Beneath all the leathers, heavy blankets and chunky trekking boots, you wish you could see more of the feminine aspect of the label. Maybe it’s worth investigating that field next season?
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.