Paulo Melim Andersson has big shoesthose great, chunky Chloé wedges girls have loved for yearsto fill. And he's imagined a new girl to put in them: "She's angry, but funny-angry," he said before the show, "A girl who steals from her mother. I want this to be young-young, with no tricks. Clean, but not minimal."
So she came over as bit of a handful, this one: a stomping little character with a taste for asymmetric black, orange, and nylon-look trash-bag fabric, rather than broderie anglaise first-communion dresses and peasant smocks. Her boots are based on Doc Martens and "Diane Arbus" galoshes, and she has a giant textured green messenger bag slung across her back like a guitar case. She likes print, texture, and off-colors tooand Melim Andersson has a lot of them, with a glossary of nutty names to match: "Secret Garden" trees, "Murder Scene" streaks, "Magpie" jeweled embroidery, and "Mushy Pea" green.
Enough time has elapsed after the departure of Phoebe Philo for Chloé's pretty, vintage-y flyaway aesthetic to be in need of an update. After a long search, Melim Andersson (a British-educated Scandinavian designer whose first job was at Margiela) was hired from that other left-field girlie brand, Marni, and at this first outing something in the Marimekko-type print and square-cut, off-kilter shapes carried the traces of his former employment.
The show had energy, but it's too early to judge how any newcomer will make his mark based on one collection (it took quite a few seasons for Philo to climb to the ranks of cult leader, after all). For now, the pertinent question is whether Melim Andersson gets the fact that Chloé has to be an easily broken down assemblage of fab pieces that fly out of shops. Reactions were split over that. This season label loyalists will zoom in on familiar items like the loose, orange semi-sheer dress with a drop waist and ruffled flutter in the skirt, the shifts and skirts decorated with plastic paillettes and crystal, and a few (maybe too few, since it's winter) re-cut boyfriend coat-jackets to throw on over them. What's new is that this Fall there are also lures for an edgier, tougher customer, like the slithery nylon-look bustier sheath with an unzippable collar, and a cool asymmetric sleeveless shift with volume caught into the lower back. Is that moving Chloé out of its comfort zone, or moving it on? It's too soon to make a call on that, but it will be intriguing to watch how the real votes are countednot on the runway, but in the stores.