How does it feel to be finally in charge at Chloé? "Oh, it's heaven!" exclaimed a tired but exhilarated Hannah MacGibbon, the 38-year-old blond British designer who assisted Phoebe Philo from 1997 through the label's red-hot early-noughties days. Her task is to heat it back up again after several tepid seasons and reconnect with that customer who would once spare no expense to get hold of Chloé's signature sexy-girly things, trophy bags, and shoes.
MacGibbon's scallop-edge coats, rounded-shoulder blouses, and high-waisted flared shorts, interspersed with ruffle-necklined dresses and jumpsuits with an eighties kind of gathered swell in the thigh region, certainly had an air of summery freshness about them. Her contrasts of chartreuse, beige, cream, bluebell, green, and a particular apricot (the exact shade that appears on Chloé packaging) were rinsed of any print and shorn of the embroidery that is a usual feature of the brand.
So was there evidence here that MacGibbon holds a key to the It-ness, the spontaneous, non-intellectual-girl knack that is central to Chloé? In this first outing, some signs were promising—one of the least weird jumpsuits on any runway (a dark green silk halter); a few great pairs of pants. The shoes, ankle-strapped flats and spindly high heels in mixed leather and shiny plastic (no platforms, hooray!), were the best pacesetters since the Chloé clog stomped out the door. And the color-blocked bags with gilt frames and chains had editors scribbling ticks and stars in their notebooks.
In this first collection, MacGibbon said she's aiming to "cleanse the palate" and de-complicate fashion for young women. That's going to take a while to evolve, and the designer must be given time to realign the brand identity amid our new set of economics, something Philo and she never had to worry about when they arrived at the house as twentysomethings. A bigger question is whether the company will see fit to steer Chloé back toward its origins as a prêt-à-porter label for seekers of fashion at accessible prices. At a time when "no expense spared" is fast becoming an anachronism, that would be smart.