Cre­ative flow

Chloé’s de­signer vis­its the archives to ex­plore the la­bel’s long-stand­ing love af­fair with the ul­tra-fem­i­nine blouse, shown off by some of the clients who in­spire her.

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Fashion - - CONTENTS - By Vic­to­ria Moss. Pho­to­graphs by Lorenzo Agius

Chloé blouses, as el­e­gant to­day as in the 1970s, and the women who wear them

‘I love to be well put-to­gether – though not in a stiff way. I want com­fort and free­dom’

Sit­ting calmly go­ing through look-book im­ages with her French PR in an east Lon­don stu­dio, Clare Waight Keller is fill­ing up time hav­ing turned up half an hour early for her por­trait sit­ting. She is per­haps one of fash­ion’s most unas­sum­ing cre­ative di­rec­tors, bat­ting off too much hair and make-up styling as she steps up to be pho­tographed wear­ing her favourite over­size blouse from her spring 2015 Chloé col­lec­tion with a denim skirt (also Chloé).

Waight Keller, 45, who has twin daugh­ters and a son with her hus­band, Philip Keller, an ar­chi­tect, has an en­vi­ably re­laxed no-fuss air about her. This re­sound­ingly low-key at­ti­tude rings through her work. Hav­ing led the Parisian house for four years, she has been qui­etly putting her touch on the la­bel

‘Ev­ery de­signer at Chloé has worked in their mo­ment; it’s about a spirit and cap­tur­ing a point in time’

Clare Waight Keller

‘A blouse can ex­press many moods. It can be quite prim and proper, or re­laxed and rock’n’roll’

to the point where it is now hav­ing what fash­ion types like to call ‘a mo­ment’.

‘I think when you come in [to a com­pany] you feel like you can cope with a lot, and the re­al­ity is that you can, but you sort of he­li­copter over a lot of things be­cause you are just ab­sorb­ing it all,’ she says of her Parisian bap­tism, which came af­ter a six-year stint as the cre­ative di­rec­tor of Pringle of Scot­land, be­fore which she was a se­nior de­signer in Tom Ford’s Gucci ate­lier along­side Christo­pher Bai­ley and Fran­cisco Costa (now the cre­ative di­rec­tor of Calvin Klein – Ford clearly knows how to spot ta­lent). ‘When you start you’re al­ways try­ing to mesh your­self into the whole brand and cul­ture,’ she says. ‘Mov­ing to France was a big part of the change for me – it took a while to get into the cul­tural side of life. I brought my fam­ily as well, so there was a lot of just set­ting things up.’

Waight Keller is fol­low­ing in il­lus­tri­ous foot­steps: previous in­cum­bents of her seat in­clude Karl Lager­feld (1963-78 and 1992-97), Stella Mc­cart­ney (1997-2001) and Phoebe Philo (20012006). ‘I’ve re­ally tried to evolve Chloé from what it was be­fore and what it has been known for over the past 15 years and try to bring it into this era,’ she says. ‘ Ev­ery de­signer at Chloé has re­ally worked in their mo­ment; it’s about a spirit and cap­tur­ing a mo­ment in time, so for me it’s im­por­tant to have my take on what I think fash­ion is about to­day, and what’s rel­e­vant.’ This trans­lates into ‘the mix of the very fem­i­nine with the boy­ish, or let’s say street, feel­ing. I like the mix and the ten­sion of those two things, which I think cre­ates some­thing quite mod­ern.’

Her a/w15 col­lec­tion in­cludes el­e­gantly louche 1970s-in­spired maxi dresses tem­pered with mil­i­tary-tinged coats and lace-edged slip dresses worn with chunky black an­kle boots (al­beit fas­tened with thick vel­vet rib­bon). The show’s sound­track was Fleet­wood Mac’s Ru­mours, and there was more than a whiff of Ste­vie Nicks about it (set­ting the tone for fash­ion’s cur­rent af­fec­tion for all things 1970s).

‘I grew up in that era,’ Waight Keller says, ‘and I think it’s some­thing that still has a mas­sive in­flu­ence in the brand; it has al­ways dipped into that spirit.’ Mixed in with this, Waight Keller says, she was in­flu­enced ‘a lot by the Blooms­bury set. I wanted to keep an ur­bane feel to the col­lec­tion and also re­flect that the set was a mix of men and women. The more struc­tured, mil­i­tary pieces ref­er­enced mas­cu­line tai­lor­ing, then all the flute dresses

with botan­i­cal prints were in­flu­enced by that era.’

With a la­bel such as Chloé, which was es­tab­lished by Gaby Aghion (the woman said to have in­vented the phrase prêt-à-porter) in 1952, there is al­ways a sig­nif­i­cant sar­to­rial back story, but it takes a con­fi­dent de­signer to be able to em­brace an archive and run with it in their own way. Waight Keller laughs and ex­plains, ‘I lit­er­ally ar­rived as we were do­ing a 60th an­niver­sary ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion, so I had a mas­sive im­mer­sion into the archive. We have an ex­ten­sive amount of Karl’s sketches from his era.’

What sur­prised her, though, were the im­ages by ‘more avant-garde pho­tog­ra­phers such as Guy Bour­din and Hel­mut New­ton’. She says, ‘There is this per­cep­tion of Chloé be­ing overly girly – not sexy, not a con­fi­dent woman – but then see­ing these im­ages you get another per­spec­tive, of quite a pow­er­ful look and of strong women, which was ac­tu­ally very much Gaby her­self.’

As she rif­fled through the archives of Chloé, one thing stood out as the ar­che­typal piece: the blouse. ‘It was the first piece that Gaby felt ex­pressed a sense of free­dom in an ev­ery­day wardrobe,’ Waight Keller notes. ‘She said that men have it so easy, they just put on three pieces ev­ery day, a shirt, a trouser and a jacket. She wanted that same ease for women. The blouse was some­thing she felt could be that ev­ery­day sta­ple. It was al­ways her start­ing point with the col­lec­tions.’

The silky, easy, flat­ter­ing vo­lu­mi­nous blouse has be­come a sig­na­ture piece. This sea­son Waight Keller of­fers black and cream silk ver­sions with el­e­gant silk-cov­ered but­tons and trail­ing neck ties, which at the same time look per­fectly mod­ern and charm­ingly retro. They are the ideal clas­sic pieces. To test this the­ory Waight Keller has brought a se­lec­tion of archive blouses from the Lager­feld 1970s era as well as new-sea­son Chloé for us to shoot as worn by her cur­rent muses – all women who, like her, have that nat­u­ral con­fi­dence with a slightly bo­hemian air.

‘Lace has al­ways fea­tured quite heav­ily, and crêpe de Chine is the iconic fab­ric we use,’ Waight Keller says as she flicks through the pieces se­lected for the shoot to­day. The three women she has cho­sen to wear them epit­o­mise the sort of ‘raw­ness’ that she be­lieves the Chloé woman has. ‘Some­one who is very im­me­di­ate, in­cred­i­bly nat­u­ral, free-spir­ited and con­fi­dent.’ Which all sounds like an ap­peal­ing propo­si­tion. Rather like Waight Keller her­self.

‘I think of my­self as a bit bo­hemian and hav­ing that 1970s men­tal­ity of not re­ally car­ing too much’

Va­le­ria wears silk crêpe blouse, Chloé by Karl Lager­feld, 1972; trousers, £840, Chloé; shoes and jew­ellery, her own. Clare wears blouse, skirt and jew­ellery, all Chloé s/s15 and her own

Ce­cilia wears lurex blouse, Chloé by Karl Lager­feld, 1979; trousers, £460, Chloé; neck­lace, her own

Jemima wears silk crêpe blouse, Chloé by Karl Lager­feld, 1975-77; jeans and jew­ellery, her own

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