Have you ever walked around a museum, looking at paintings of women wearing layers of corsets, boning and bustles, yourself wearing a crisp white shirt and boyfriend jeans, and wondered who you had to thank for transforming the way women have dressed through the decades? Gaby Agnion, founder of Chloe and pioneer of prêt-a-porter, was that transformer of fashion – from frumpy and formal, to effortless and chic.
Chloe, and sister line See by Chloe, offer women feminine pieces, oozing irreverent glamour. With celebrity muses including Olivia Palermo and Carmen Kass, Chloe focuses on quality cuts and fabrics to create the feel of luxury, and will be available in store and online at PRESS from November.
Having worked at Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Gucci, Claire Waight Keller now sits at the helm of the Parisian fashion powerhouse, succeeding Karl Lagerfeld and Celine’s Phoebe Philo. On the eve of her 5th fashion week as head of house, she chats to Cherry Brearley from PRESS about her inspirations, essential investments for this autumn, and how she balances work and family life.
PRESS: You grew up in Birmingham, and went on to live and work in London, New York, and Paris. How do your world travelling experiences inspire you, and where’s your favourite place to call home?
CWK: Although it doesn’t sound very glamorous, growing up in 80’s Birmingham, there was a vibrancy to the way people dressed, a punk, DIY style that really sparked my love for clothes. I loved the mohawks, the leathers, the safety pins…who would have known then that I would end up in Paris! At 17, I left for London, where I feel I’ll always belong. It’s humming with life – so much of mine has happened, and is still happening, here. Unlike some designers, I tend not to let my travels inspire my collections: travel, for me, is a complete escape from reality and a chance to switch off. I’m looking forward to a trip to California, where I can run down the beach and disappear into the waves, I love it there.
PRESS: When Chloe was founded in 1952, it pioneered the concept of ‘pret-a-porter,’ freeing women to be able to live easily in clothes that were still impeccably glamorous. How different from then, is today’s ‘Chloe Woman’?
CWK: The Chloe women of 1952, and of 2013 may live in very different worlds, but they share the same spirit of adventure! Chloe shies away from fussy detailing, communicating instead with sharp tailoring, volume, and quality fabrics. The upcoming AW13 collection was all based around the concept of a woman having a ‘uniform’ for whatever life may bring her, enabling her to look amazing, without having to think too hard about it. My favourite piece is the essential white shirt, and of course, the more frivolous grey wool cape has charmed me. My collections are all created to empower today’s real women, with busy lives, enabling them to exude cool, Parisian irreverence. Women in Chloe should feel cool and comfortable, never overdressed or self-conscious.
PRESS: Speaking of today’s women leading busy lives: your life must be one of the busiest! How do you find time to balance raising your young family and running a fashion giant, whilst still finding time to yourself?
CWK: Sometimes I’m amazed! It’s true, I do work extremely hard, especially in the weeks leading up to shows, and this has been one of the busiest of the year. Disciplining myself by never, ever dealing with work calls or emails at home helps me not to get overwhelmed, and the time I spend with my family is so precious. I love nature – I spend almost every weekend in the park in Paris, riding bikes, eating picnics, relaxing and having fun with my family. The rare moments that I have break to myself at work, I’m addicted to bidding for vintage clothes and furniture on eBay and www.firstdibs.com. I’m always justifying my buys by telling myself ‘it’s for work’… really it’s just pure shopping escapism!
PRESS: Perhaps the most famous quote from Gaby was ‘I lived the life I wanted.’ – you’ve accomplished so much so far… does this resonate with you?
CWK: Absolutely. It’s one of my favourite things Gaby said, as, it’s 100% my attitude to life, and, it’s 100% the Chloe attitude too. The Chloe woman is strong, independent and smart, she doesn’t ‘follow trends’. Rather, she trusts her gut feeling, and grasps her life, and fashion, fearlessly, with both hands.