The finale for the end of Clare Waight Keller’s time at Chloé ended in cheers at the finale. But there were no tears as it seemed more like a mutual uncoupling. In these days, when designers move on so fast, her six-year tenure seemed long serving.
Freedom – to be a woman, to wear a sweater to work, to run across the sand in a Seventies cotton lace dress, to be carefree, has always been Clare’s thing.
But from the moment the models stepped out in their short, square coats, brief dresses and pants cut low on the hips, it was clear that at the midnight hour of her tenure, a new story was unfolding.
“Psychedelic optimism” was the designer’s name for what she described as “the Chloé girl escaping down the rabbit hole” of decades.
“I wanted that feeling of escapism – in a way with the Yellow Submarine, a cartoon that morphs from one world into another – finding different dreamscapes and wonderlands,” the designer said. “Some are hard and some are beautiful and I thought that felt really interesting.”
So everything was in the mix, with a whiff of the wild child of the Sixties constrained by a short coat with blurry checks or made furry and colourful. The mishmash moved on to the Seventies where pinafore dresses with frilly blouses morphed into trousers of indeterminate gender – wide-legged to skinny, but always from a low body line.
Then Clare’s heart went to flowers, as short dresses had floral patterns, some very Seventies with illustrations of dandelions and magic mushrooms. Others looked fresh and cute – very young London.
“It is the mix that feels really interesting and influential,” said Clare. “There are mushrooms and caterpillars and worlds within worlds – and then the faces come in. The idea is that the opium poppies come up on the dresses, but then there are checks and the mohairs which are quite fuzzy and fading. I love the idea of that against the crisp shine of patent shoes and leather.”
This was a hippy, trippy and happy way to leave Chloé, although the designer has never quite reached the quality of ‘French-ness’ that the Parisians have always felt for the brand.
I asked Clare what she felt was the essence of “her” Chloé , but she did not want to dwell over the past.
“I thought it was important to bring something that felt a little unexpected,” she said. “I didn’t want to do a retrospective because, as a designer, you should always look forward and I felt it was important to touch on the elements that I’ve always worked with: very sheer gauzy dresses, the soft volumes and sportiness in a new way.”
And just to be sure that everyone was happy, her last Chloé collection had a sweet, short red velvet dress, with a heart cut out of the chest.