Chloé: Grand, gutsy, Gentileschi
Chloé staged in its latest show Thursday lunchtime inside the Pompidou center, an art-inflected, baroque tinged collection very much at home in Paris' most famous modern art institution.
Designer Gabriela Hearst’s key inspiration – the 17th century painter Artemisia Gentileschi - was apparent throughout, a memorable display.
As it happens, Gentileschi’s struggle for self-expression also dovetails with key themes in Hearst’s work, the vital need for climate protection and the championing of women leaders – both in history and today.
Just like in this women’s fall/winter 23/24 collection where all the cast were women, practically all of Artemisia’s surviving oil paintings feature women as their protagonists. One of her most famous paintings is Esther before Ahasuerus (c. 1693) where the Jewish heroine convinces the Persian potentate to spare her people, after he had ordered their execution.
Coincidentally, the show was staged just days before Purim, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the events in the Book of Esther.
Hearst had her skilled design team digitalize that very painting and then turn it into naive motifs used in graphic quilting – made in the Mumbai-based Chanakya International embroidery studio. The results were seen in stupendous multicolored sheaths; and also in black and brown inserts in leather skirts and dresses.
Gabriela’s choice of a voluptuous silhouette recalled the Renaissance too. The coats were long and aristocratic and made in noble fabrics – whether patchwork shearling, nappa leather or fine wool speckled with jade and black crystals. Skirts were slim bubbles, gathered subtly; while dresses hinted of a childhood spent in a convent, with reverend mother inflated sleeves and starched white shirts. An effect heightened by the color palette – 80% of the show was in black and white
Lambskin leather slip dresses added some seduction to the Renaissance revival, as did several excellently rouched leather cocktails with leg of mutton sleeves and nipped waists.
In its program note, the house stressed how Renaissance architecture had inspired a multitude of fabrications: the dégradé pattern of black satin diamonds hand-appliquéd onto wool; or trousers with intricate lattice formations of hand-inserted leather braids and pin-tucks.
Plus, baroque pearls, hand-blown glass droplets and raw semi-precious stones all referenced Artemisia’s paintings.
Besides laying put a clear fashion vision, Hearst is also successfully reviving Chloé accessories, showing leather bag designs inspired by Medieval coin purses. Or The Penelope, a recent bag in box leather, suede patchwork and embellished shearling, finished with artisanal touches and a signature metal coin closure inspired by the Maison’s jewelry archive.
“The collection is Renaissance at its core. Because I do believe that the disciplines of art and science are going to take us out of this climate mess. This whole thing is about empowering women and so our muse was Artemisia. I love her famous quote. 'I will show your lordship, what a woman can do'," explained Hearst post-show.
Plus, when it comes to fighting climate change Chloé and Hearst walk the walk. Its Gayia eyewear is made using innovative ReAce material - a 100% recycled acetate derived from pre-consumer scraps. The show seating by Gavron Dumas Studio will be used in Chloé boutiques before being donated to charity for reuse and repurposing. And the golden nugget embellishments and buttons throughout the collection were hand crafted by artisans in East Africa.
It’s an old adage that designers who create for brands on both sides of the Atlantic – recall Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs - are often rapidly eroded, exhausted by the back and forth across the pond.
However, Chloé has also long been a house were women have created great fashion - from its founder to her successors Martin Sitbon, Phoebe Philo, Clare Waght Keller to Hearst herself.
Thus, four seasons into her tenure at Chloé, Hearst seems energized by the dual roles. Very much so, given the evidence of this collection.
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