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French fashion house Chloe presents relaxed, in a glamorous way

Clare Waight Keller of Chloe plays with the idea of dressing for heat in the spring collection, which has tomboy elements.

November 10, 2013|By Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic
  • Designer Clare Waight Keller attends Chloe Los Angeles Fashion Show & Dinner.
Designer Clare Waight Keller attends Chloe Los Angeles Fashion Show &… (Donato Sardella, Getty…)

French fashion house Chloé brought its singular brand of laid-back chic to Los Angeles recently, hosting a fashion show and dinner at the Midcentury Modern Brody House. Tastemakers including Zoe Saldana, January Jones, Jessica Paré, Nicole Richie and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley were treated to a presentation of the spring/summer 2014 collection first shown during Paris Fashion Week.

Chloé was founded by Gaby Aghion in 1952 as a more relaxed alternative to the formal, haute couture clothing of the day. Under the direction of Karl Lagerfeld, it became an iconic 1970s brand known for feminine blouses and fluid boho dresses. Beginning in the late 1990s, a string of female designers took the helm, including Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo and Hannah MacGibbon, and they gave the brand a more modern, tomboyish spin. They also boosted the accessories side of the business with popular pieces such as the padlocked Paddington bag, the horseshoe-shaped Marcie satchel and the studded Susanna boots, all of which garnered a following with celebrities.

British-born, Paris-based designer Clare Waight Keller took over the post of creative director in 2011, and her spring 2014 collection of beat-the-heat pieces in an earthy palette was her best yet, with a standout floaty micro-pleated white silk cloque dress knotted over the arms; khaki micro-pleated silk pants with loose ankle ties, worn with a navy peaked-shoulder blouse; chiffon-weight knits; burnished khaki leather pants; and blue crochet lace dresses.

Keller's slouchy trousers, relaxed jackets and jumpsuits have been embraced by Hollywood as a kind of everyday uniform, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Katie Holmes, Cate Blanchett, Victoria Beckham and others wearing them in recent months.

I talked with the designer over coffee about her love of L.A., the inspiration for the spring collection and why tomboy style continues to be so pervasive.

When was the last time you were in L.A.?

I was here for a few weeks in August, when I rented a couple of houses, one in Malibu and another in Laguna. My girls are really into surfing, and they love being in the water. I also have a friend who lives in Palm Springs, so we were all over the place.

Was California an inspiration for the spring collection?

Not really; it was more about dressing for the heat. In Europe, we don't experience the heat as much, but when you travel a lot and go around the world, you realize that in California, in the Far East and southern countries, you get a different impression of how you're going to dress. And really, most of the world is in that climate now. So this was something I played with in the show. That's where the desert-like color palette came in and the dry fabrics, the sense of having something very light on the skin without being transparent.

The micro-pleating was just incredible!

It took me two months to work on the fabrication, the pleating structure and the shapes. It's a special Japanese fabric. With pleating you have to be careful, because it can look old quickly, like you're wearing a granny thing. So it was quite important to get the dimension and weight of the pleats right, to use them horizontally so they have a little bit more bounce.

The brand has really resonated in L.A. with celebrities looking for a kind of off-duty, daytime uniform. I like the fact that you focus on daywear so much, when so many designers really don't. Is that something that's a priority?

One hundred percent. A more playful approach to daywear is really part of Chloé.… With the blouses, crepe de chine dresses and light, soft layering we do, having the right boots and your hair done in a certain way, so much about the Chloe look is attitude as well.

Indeed, in 2012, the brand celebrated its 60th anniversary with a Rizzoli book, "Chloé Attitudes." The tomboy idea is such a part of Chloé's legacy, and it's become such a reference point in fashion in general recently. Why?

By adding boyish elements, it stops you tripping into that overly girlie territory. It's bringing that mix together that creates tension and makes it more modern and easier.

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