You can call it a predictable move. After all, what European brand doesn’t want to penetrate more deeply into the Asian market, and in China in particular? With a population of around one and a half billion—according to the United Nations, 18.41% of the entire planet is Chinese—the country offers endless opportunities, especially taking into consideration its young elite reshaping the luxury sector. A study by the Global Times is not shy to state that “Chinese consumers buy one-third of the world’s luxury goods.” They are also digitally-savvy, informed, and want the best of the best. And sooner, rather than later.
Although this is great news for any marketer or revenue officer, it was not only the finances that brought Chloé to Shanghai, where the French maison held its first-ever show outside of France in its 67-year history. Creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi is a devoted fan of Chinese cinema, as proven by her 2017 debut at the helm of the brand. While her take on the “Chloé girl” marched for the first time down the runway, speakers blasted the soundtrack of Millenium Mambo. “I love cinema in general, and Chinese cinema in particular as it became one of the greatest in the world in the past twenty years,” stated the designer when we met backstage. “Chinese cinematography has shaped my vision and since I decided to present my Chloé collection I have watched so many movies with amazing feminine roles incarnated by leading women like Gong Li, Shu Qi, and Zhao Tao,” she added on her Instagram account, recently flooded with images of Chinese silver screen classics.
To tackle the design, this January Ramsay-Levi visited Shanghai to “find the links,” and whatever else she could reference in the Resort 2020 show. “What caught my attention was the many layers and different scales of the city, with its juxtaposition of history, art deco, and modernity,” she reflected. “The city also inspired me to create a collection that is very utilitarian, but also very precious at the same time, almost like the buildings you see around town.”
Architecture and design seem to be some of the key elements to understanding the rhythm of Shanghai and its people, and the venue selected to host the Chloé show is a perfect example. Raw, with exposed concrete and metal, the rooftop at the Long Museum looked miles away from the gilded cliché that China was once associated with. It also hinted that the country’s youth—and the local Chloé consumer—values a new perception of cool and of luxury. You can experience this by walking around the city, now bursting with edgy new boutique hotels, galleries, and restaurants designed by contemporary architectural practices such as Neri & Hu.
Being faithful to the Chinese movie theme, the first looks seemed like a respectful and eloquent homage to all those stories that teased Ramsay-Levi’s imagination. There was a delicate version of the cheongsam dress, tang-zhuang looks in jacquard with the Chloé motif, and a ladylike red dress that seemed inspired by Shanghai’s jazz age. In line with China’s unmatched textile know how, fabrics felt expensive, and embroidery took pieces to the next level. Paired with a sand-colored skirt, a top was enriched with delicate blossoms; and an envelope jacket that closed with a lateral knot revealed its precious lining with gold thread. Yes, the empress has new clothes, but in the best Ramsey-Levi style: nothing felt like a costume, overdone, or from a past dynasty.
From Shanghai to Paris, the classic Chloé aesthetic also revealed itself with its usual bourgeois charm and boy-meets-girl vibe. We all know that the label’s followers love bohemian dresses and ruffled blouses, but also tailored trousers, everyday denim, corduroy suits (in pink!), and cinched overcoats. “The look with the Chantilly lace skirt and poplin shirt is one my favorites. It illustrates the contrast between masculine and feminine,” points out the designer when asked to pick one of the styles that she best identifies with.
The 2020 season marks another milestone for Chloé, as the maison presented also for the first time its resort collection with a full-blown runway show. This underlines the crescendo importance that the pre-collections represent in terms of business, but also sends a message that Chloé aims to position itself as a brand, that, beyond the top selling accessories, is also a strong ready-to-wear player. Thankfully, for the bliss of the generous number of influencers that dominated the venue, we spotted pretty combs and ribbon chokers, new high-top sneakers, mid-heeled buckled moccasins and boots, and arm candy that will look picture perfect on Instagram feeds. Everyone’s instant favorite, stealing oohs and aahs from the crowd: the new version of the mini bag that debuted last season, now with a geometric pattern, in acid yellow and dark blue. Judging by the big C that branded this design, it seems safe to say that for Chloé, the C will continue to mark the (sweet) spot.
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