I've not yet visited the newly expanded gargantuum space that is Le Palais de Tokyo in Paris but it's likely that the upcoming Chloé.Attitudes exhibition, which opens on the 29th September, will mark my first visit to the space. The exhibition kickstarts Palais de Tokyo's fashion programme, which promises exciting things, where previously the space hadn't really delved too deep into fashion curation (despite Palais de Tokyo being frequently used as a Paris Fashion Week venue). The exhibition of course coincides with Chloé's 60th anniversary, an elderly birthday that might be surprising to some, given that Chloé's history isn't exactly widely known beyond the recent history of Stella McCartney and Phoebe Philo bringing the ready to wear label back to prominence.
Therefore I thought I'd idle away some spare hours going through Jalou Gallery (L'Officiel's online archive) and do a bit of pointless screencapping, illustrating one part of Chloé's varied and at times surprising past. I've left out the familiar Stella McCartney-and-beyond part of Chloe's history as I'm interested in finding out about the earlier parts of Chloé's history The exhibition will of course bring this part of the story to life and with the awe-inspiring curator Judith Clark on board, Chloé.Attitudes promises to be a Eurostar-trip worthy exhibition to go to.
It all began with Gaby Aghion and her groundbreaking decision in 1952 to eschew stiff haute couture and instead design clothes that were readily available, but not necessarily lacking in quality. Chloé's contribution to the very existence of ready-to-wear can't be underestimated and even the name coined for the brand - an ambiguous name of Aghion's friend - set the ball rolling for down to earth and tangible fashion, without necessarily having singular creative egos attached to the brand. The name also lent itself to the house taking on many different freelancers and in-house creative directors. The exhibition is choosing to focus on the following creative directors: Gérard Pipart (pre 1963), Maxime de la Falaise (late 70s), Karl Lagerfeld (on and off between 1965-83 and then again between 1992-97), Martine Sitbon (1988-1992), Stella McCartney (1997-2001), Phoebe Philo (2001-2006), Hannah MacGibbon (2008-2011) and current CD Clare Waight Keller (2011-present). This isn't the complete Chloé rollcall as Aghion very early on decided on hiring a plethora of young talent to design for her maison, allowing different voices to build a composite brand that could adapt and flourish in different circumstances.
This makes Chloé's past a little inconsistent but fascinating as a maison that doesn't necessarily have one instantly-recognisable central signature. The exhibition is going to shed some light on this design diversity as opposed to affirming what we all know about Chloé - that it's a house that does lovely feminine day dresses. Waight Keller herself has found this intriguing. "“The process of researching this anniversary show has been enlightening for me as it contradicted my preconceptions of Chloé’s design history completely. Whereas I’d imagined something very bohemian in spirit, in reality, it’s much, much more than that - clothes at the intersection of couture 'savoir- faire' and youth 'savoir-être.'"
Yes there is that feminine ease and simplicity that can be found in spare jersey dresses, white smocks and relaxed knitwear but early on there were geometric prints and in the eighties, you had quite loud surrealist elements in the designs, instigated mainly by Lagerfeld. It's not surprising that Kaiser Karl, being the manic multi-tasker that he is dominated Chloé's aesthetic for well over twenty years, contributing furiously to the house. He had the foresight to move Chloé in different directions depending on the decade, all the while establishing that pared-down femininity that is so associated with the house. I'm particularly interested to see how the contributions of ex-Chloé designers such as Martine Sitbon and early on, Gérard Pipart moulded the brand purely because their work for the brand is difficult to see documented. Like I said, judging by the imagery here, we're in for an exhibition that demonstrates Chloé's variety and free-spirited attitude, rather than affirming any pre-conceived notions.