Natacha Ramsay-Levi Gives Chloé's Feminine Softness Some Bite
As the news that Riccardo Tisci had been appointed Burberry’s new creative director broke in London, the fashion press gathered in Paris to watch Chloé’s Autumn/ Winter show. It was the brand’s second catwalk collection following their own turn in the industry’s game of musical chairs, when Natacha Ramsay-Levi (ex Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga) took the helm following Brit designer Clare Waight Keller’s departure for Givenchy last year.
For lovers of Waight Keller’s ethereal Chloé woman, Ramsay-Levi’s debut left something to be desired. But if that collection felt a little rushed, this second season revealed a designer who understood and respected the fashion house’s design codes, but also felt comfortable enough to subvert them: a designer at dual purposes.
“The dualistic illusions of a woman as she is now, and who she wants to be,” read the notes accompanying the show. Who does she want to be? All that feminine softness had been given some bite, and even Chloé’s signature 1970s colour palette took on a distinctly utilitarian bent paired with sand and khaki. Shearling jackets were cropped to give an aviator feel, while jodhpur/parachute hybrid trousers looked military issue tucked into boots.
And oh, the boots: there were lace-up boxing boots with ribbed rubber toes, and more western leather styles with engraved metal Cuban heels. Bags were embossed with the rearing horses that Ramsay Levi embroidered onto trouser suits last season. This was less contrived, and more relaxed - but crucially for the business, those commercially successful accessories weren’t overlooked.
Western nods continued in the form of silk shirts with contrast coloured yokes and metal studding. Lace and the Chloé woman are synonymous, but even that Ramsay-Levi was determined to modernise; instead of delicate florals there were geometric chevrons, echoed in 70s upholstery prints.
Hardware dressed-up and toughened-up at turns. Zips were not just for purpose, but slashed across the top of the thigh on high-waisted trousers. Gobstopper-sized stones dusted knuckles and silver cuffs were shield-like on wrists and upper arms. Necklaces, too, had been blown up into thick silver chains worn doubled or even tripled up. Gold coin and ring necklaces looped around high collars or trailed long over low necklines, sometimes over bare decolletage, sometimes a fine-knit poloneck layered underneath silk - a nod to how women really dress in the winter (and on cold, early-March days).
Just a few hours later, Ramsay-Levi could be seen sitting front row at Paco Rabanne, her outfit a road-test in the same stylish layering, from cream shearling coat and sand-beige trousers to brown military boots - though the rest of us will have to wait a few months to wear them.