“When I arrived in France from Alexandria in 1952, there was only couture or basic ready-to-wear. There was no luxury ready-to-wear; well-made clothes, with quality fabrics and fine detailing, did not exist. A lot of things did not exist in France. Everything was yet to be invented, and this thrilled me.” -Gaby Aghion
For our latest edition of Designer Spotlight, we’re delving into the history of French fashion house Chloé. Founded by Gaby Aghion, a wealthy Egyptian émigré whose name isn’t as remembered as her brand, Chloé was the first high-end Parisian fashion house to sell ready-to-wear clothing as we know it today.
The Chloé Story
When Gaby Aghion arrived in Paris, she couldn’t help but notice how drab the woman she saw looked. She especially disliked the designs of Christian Dior, whose “New Look” skirts sent the whole fashion world into a frenzy. Aghion didn’t want the stiff, fussy, frou-frou look of the era’s haute couture fashions. Gaby Aghion was looking for luxury wares that were youthful, fresh and feminine. And because she couldn’t find them, Chloé was born.
Chloé was not a rich woman’s response to boredom – like all invention, it was a response to necessity. Chloé was for the lives that woman like Aghion and her friends led.
At the height of Parisian haute couture, Gaby Aghion introduced a new concept: Luxury ready-to-wear, or “pret-a-porter.”
Aghion’s first collection was inspired by the outfits she saw on young girls at Egyptian sports clubs. It consisted of six cotton poplin dresses – pale blue, berry pink, beige, black, white, and midnight blue. She showed them at the renowned Café de Flore, in the Left Bank. The collection’s name was taken from a friend whose name Aghion loved – Chloé Humyans.
“I couldn’t use my name in relation to my family, who, out of snobbery, were already talking about how ‘Gaby was working’”. -Gaby Aghion
With her first collection, Aghion established Chloé’s haute boho look. Today, Chloé collections can still be described as they were originally intended: easy, elegant, feminine, bohemian, and chic.
Bright Young Things
To ensure that her brand was always keeping up with the times, Aghion appointed a slew of young designers to Chloé.
The 1960s brought in a crop of fresh talent, Gerard Pipart, Maxime de La Falaise, Michele Rosier, Graziella Fontana and the most notable, Karl Lagerfeld.
From 1964 to 1983, Lagerfeld attracted young woman and magazine editors with his designs for Chloé. His designs constantly changed, and were often described as “revolutionary.”
During the years of 1987-1992, the supermodel era, designer Martine Sitbon was appointed. She refreshed the aging design house. By adding more androgynous designs and bringing in models like Linda Evangelista, she revitalized Chloé. Karl Lagerfeld then returned again until 1997.
Following Karl’s second departure came three young female British designers. In the 2000s, Stella McCartney, Pheobe Philo, and Hannah MacGibbon succeeded each other as Creative Directors of the house.
The 2000-era designers introduced accessories and a new line, See by Chloé. The most famous of these accessories was the Paddington bag, fashion’s first “It bag.”
Today, the fashion house is headed up by Claire Waight Keller. She captures the essence of Chloé but still makes it modern – just what Gaby Aghion wanted.
“Chloé speaks to me on so many levels-firstly because it’s feminine. I love the free-spirited, effortless attitude of the Chloé girl. For me, Chloé is about that fabulous piece you can wear so many different ways, and the spirit of confidence you have when you wear it. Most of all, it feels real.” -Clare Waight Keller
What do you think about Chloé? Do you feel new designers are doing a good job at channeling the old aesthetics? Which Chloé designer era is your favorite? Any suggestions for the next installment of Designer Spotlight?