It is a tall order to be the creative director of a house during its 60th anniversary. And to do that in only your third season is an even taller one. Yet Clare Waight Keller came through this challenge with suitable aplomb for Spring. It was her most accomplished collection yet.
The designer appeared unbowed by the weight of history—what was shown today was not a greatest-hits collection. Yet, at the same time, she seemed to have subtly absorbed the lessons of the archive to be found in the Judith Clark-curated "Chloé: Attitudes" retrospective currently showing at the Palais de Tokyo. The main lesson being that the unifying factor in Chloé's history is not a surface style, but rather a state of mind. Gaby Aghion, the founder of the brand, had wanted to free women from the heaviness and import of haute couture. She did this with a lightness and an insouciance in her attitude to fashion and to life. "I actually started by looking at transcripts of Gaby's talks with us," Waight Keller explained of the collection after her show. "She said something that really struck me: 'I never explain anything. I live my life, and I live the life I love.'"
In that way there is no real narrative for this Chloé collection, just an idea of a certain feminine confidence—and a more French one than has been seen for some time. Simultaneously there is a certain English and boyish discipline that Waight Keller has added to the clothes, both in style and structure. Concentrating on the cropped, the mid-length, and the long—"a clean organization of looks," as the designer put it—there was a play on layering, particularly in the transparent and the solid, as well as Bermuda shorts and "side pleat" trousers. Technical experiments with materials were another way this collection was freed from the weight of history; the creation of volume and structure with a stiff, geometric lace and the use of pleated Japanese polyester brought about some of the prettiest looks. Yet a few of these dresses indeed had their counterparts in the exhibition, such as a flesh pink, transparent pleated tulle dress that Karl Lagerfeld had created during his tenure at Chloé in the eighties. It's telling that Lagerfeld is the go-to designer for Waight Keller, and it further points to an interest in the substance of Chloé as much as its style.