The Charm of Hannah McGibbon’s Chloé

September – my favourite month – is coming with big steps, so I’m gradually looking forward to the warmth of autumn clothes – knits, trench coats, earthy tones… This sort of exhaustion with summer-wear made me dive into Vogue Runway’s archives, and just like that I’ve rediscovered a designer-and-brand tandem that would feel so relevant today. Hannah McGibbon was Phoebe Philo’s right hand during the latter’s creative directorship of Chloé between 2001 and 2006 – a period when the label helped to redefine the way women wanted to dress with a mixture of free-spirited, sun-kissed levity and feminine tailoring. Then from 2008 to 2011, Hannah herself took control, ramping up the label’s 1970s savoir faire. I can remember how slammed by the press she was with every season. Looking at her collections from that time – especially her autumn-winter 2010 collection – I’ve got no idea why her collections were met with such harsh reviews. They were beautiful – elegant, refined and super chic. And oh, how timeless! Just look at the below images. Pretty much the entire autumn-winter 2020 season has that take on soft minimalism, which might have been misunderstood a decade ago. As far as I know, McGibbon is now consulting different labels. If she ever forgives the press that once gave her a hard time, I can really see her taking on some houses that need a good creative direction. How about Rochas (which still hasn’t named it’s new designer)?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Women. Chloé AW20

The Chloé invitation came with a mini poster of a Rita Ackermann painting. The artist provided access to five additional pieces from the ’90s and ’00s at Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s request, and the designer used them as patches on the front and back of a button-down shirt, as a design on a blanket shawl (Leave Me Alone, 1995), and as an actual-size print for a flowing shirtdress. Golden totem sculptures by Marion Verboom decorated the runway, and Marianne Faithfull smokily read Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” and other poems on the soundtrack. Still more women creatives joined the models on the catwalk. “It’s about a community of creative spirits,” Ramsay-Levi stated. “Yes, clothes are great, but I love creative women.” After three years at the helm of the brand, Natacha accumulated her biggest Chloé signatures for autumn-winter 2020: the tailoring, the soft blouses, the romantic dresses. She infused them with personal touches that made them even more special. Suits leaned ’70s, with easy flaring pants and rolled-sleeve jackets. Her blouses had delicately jeweled buttons and cuff links, and her romantic dresses were alternately inset with bands of crochet at the hem or decorated with enamel embroidery at their peekaboo necklines. The Rita Ackermann prints worked their charm too. Natacha Ramsay-Levi is one of those “woman for women” designers, and since Phoebe Philo still hasn’t come back yet, she leads the pack.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Simpler. Chloé SS20

It’s Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s fifth season at Chloé, and she decided on some changes. Less over-sophisticated details, boho prints and messy accessorising for spring-summer 2020. “I’m thinking of it as chapter two for myself. I’ve tried a lot of different things; I thought, let’s simplify – be honest and true.” While such approach results in less ‘show-stoppers’ for magazine editorials (and stuff that always ends up on heavy discount), this collection proved to be one of her strongest in a while. Where earlier Ramsay-Levi might have avoided familiar Chloé-isms, like the particular shade of creamy peach associated with the brand since Karl Lagerfeld’s days, here she used them a lot: the show ended with a pair of long, graceful pleated dresses in the color. Micro-floral-print frocks were styled unbuttoned and worn over a silk bra and trousers – the look had a romantic, vintage feel. Making things simpler really works from time to time.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Shanghai. Chloé Resort 2020

The problem with resort collections presented in far-fetched destinations apply to nearly all, from Louis Vuitton’s presentation in New York to Saint Laurent’s menswear show in Malibu. The venue is spectacular; the audience is wowed; the clothes are, well, boring and far from amusing. Angelo Flaccavento, Italian fashion critic, grasps this perfectly: “these days, fashion is more about brand experience and storytelling than clothes, which most of the time are not as exciting as their packaging. The past month of traveling shows was a study in showmanship over clothes-making.” Natacha Ramsay-Levi‘s resort 2020 collection for Chloé was presented in Shanghai, specifically at Long Museum (at sunset). It’s clear the Chloé’s management has ambitions to make the brand stand in row with Dior and Prada. But does this match Chloé’s intimacy, so beloved by its clients? The entire event had to be quite an experience, that’s fur sure. However, the idea of a Chloé show in Shanghai, other than marketing, makes no much sense. Of course, the designer had some subtle references to the location. A lover of Chinese cinema, she had compiled backstage dozens of stills from her favorite movies by Jia Zhangke, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Zhang Yimou, Bi Gan and Lou Yi. Another film, Three Times by Hsiao-Hsien, informed Natacha’s decision to explore China’s rich history, drawing on its empirical eras, the Art Deco period, and its contemporary buzz. The designer’s nods to Chinese culture were conveyed in details: the side buttons on a floral dress that evoked a qipao for instance. Tiny embroideries were inspired by traditional Chinese handwork. Yet still, in general, this was one of the weakest collections coming from the designer, which is quite disturbing. It lacked a ‘look’. The clothes, put separately, with no styling, don’t spark much attention. For pre-collections, Chloé is really, really fine with look-books.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki