Gabriela Hearst seemed like a befitting choice to take over as creative director of Chloé, after Natacha Ramsay-Levi announced her departure in September 2020. Her well-established reputation as a pioneer of sustainable fashion design is perfectly aligned with the vision of Chloé chief executive officer, Riccardo Bellini, who last year announced a sustainability plan to make the house an industry leader in social responsibility and sustainability.
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Hearst’s Fall/Winter 2021 collection for the house is a radical step in the brand’s new ‘purpose-driven’ direction. The use of virgin polyester or viscose has been eliminated; more than 50 per cent of the silk used comes from organic agriculture, and more than 80 per cent of cashmere is recycled. Coats in the collection, including dramatic ‘puffchos’ (ponchos that were topped with a puffer collar) and floor length patchwork puffer jackets, are made from entirely repurposed materials. Shoes are created from recycled knitwear, and the iconic Edith bags—which happens to have been Hearst’s first ever designer bag purchase 16 years ago—have not only been reissued in recycled cashmere and jacquard, but repurposed with leftover materials such as leather pieces, recycled cashmere and deadstock shearling. “New isn’t always better,” noted the designer.
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The scalloped leather—referencing one of Aghion’s dresses from the 60’s—recycled tubular fringing, and large-scale recycled knits also create a feeling of handmade, destined to spark conversation about where and how these pieces were made—the kinds of questions we will hopefully be asking ourselves more in the future. There are also more pointed messages, like an intarsia butterfly motif that commented on the mass extinction of insect species that is occurring before our very eyes.
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But a new direction has not meant that the old conversation has been cut short. At the Spring/Summer 2021 show designed by Ramsay-Levi staged at the Palais de Tokyo, we saw models emerge on the runway from the streets of Paris—emphasising a connection to the quintessential Parisian vibe, lifestyle and dress sense. The pre-recorded show for Fall/Winter 2021 could have been the continuation of the same day, the after sundown edition. Models are filmed leaving a classic Parisian cafe and strutting out onto cobbled streets, illuminated by street lamps—the scene is rendered completely empty by the 6pm curfew that has been in place since last December.