French deluxe ready-to-wear house
Founded: by Jacques Lenoir and Gaby Aghion, in 1952; Company History: Acquired by Dunhill Holdings, Plc., 1985, and by Vendome, 1993; Karl Lagerfeld, designer, 1965-83, and again from 1992-97; Martine Sitbon, designer, 1987-91; Stella McCartney, designer, 1997-2001; Phoebe Philo, hired as designer, 2001. Fragrances include Narcisse, 1992. Company Address: 54-56 rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, 75008 Paris, France.
Gross, Michael, "Paris Originals: Chloé in the Afternoon," in New York, 15 May 1989.
Friedman, Arthur, "Chloé Reshapes Its Identity," in WWD, 2 January 1991.
White, Constance C.R., "Chloe's New Chief Designer," in the New York Times, 15 April 1997.
Mower, Sarah, "Chloe's Girl," in Harper's Bazaar, June 1997.
McCartney, Stella, "My Chloé Diary," in Harper's Bazaar, January 1998.
"She Grooves; Will She Go? The Hottest Item at Chloe is Designer Stella McCartney," in Newsweek, 18 October 1999.
Singer, Sally, "Chloé's Choice," in Vogue, August 2001.***
Style, modernity, and a strong sense of femininity have been the key elements of Chloé since its inception. Maintaining a quiet confidence among the Parisian ready-to-wear houses, Chloé has relyied on the abilities of various already-established designers to produce fresh and vibrant clothing which reflected and, in the high points of its history under Martine Sitbon, Karl Lagerfeld, and upstart Stella McCartney defined the zeitgeist of Chloé élan.
Riding the wave of prêt-á-porter companies set to challenge couture in the 1950s, Chloé was keen from the start to produce wearable clothes conveying the immediacy of modernism in clear, strong styles. The house's identity has remained true to the design tenets of its early days, producing simple garments made from fluid fabrics. These promote a sense of elegant movement, enlivened by the artistic sense of color distinguishing French fashion; a constant feature at Chloé, despite the varied nationalities of its designers.
Chloé and its peers provided a lively, frequently directional alternative to haute couture, whose dictatorial status had diminished. The company was able to headhunt inspirational designers with the talent to translate the Chloé design image into clothing which would remain distinct to the label, while consistently evolving to embrace contemporary styles. In the 1960s this meant keeping pace with the youth-orientated look in London, with clothes imbued with a futuristic vitality. In 1966 this sense of freedom through technology was assimilated by Jeanne Do into a slim, straight-falling Empire line dress in stark white decorated with metallic geometric shapes. This modern armor as eveningwear was a major fashion trend, picking up on the science fiction trend of the time. The dress also pinpointed the introduction that year of maxi skirts, reinforcing Chloé's place at the cutting edge of fashion.
Chloé's reliance on different names to pursue the design house's viability has given a chameleon-like adaptability to its contemporary fashion, calling upon such catalytic freelancers as Karl Lagerfeld who worked on and off for some 23 years. From the late 1960s until his departure in 1997, the Chloé name became synonymous with Lagerfeld. The house style remained pared-down sheath dresses, hovering around the figure, adorned with minimal decoration, which distilled the late 1960s fashion directive. Under his guidance, the label moved with ease into the pluralistic 1970s, absorbing and refining the myriad of reference points with which fashion toyed. Lagerfeld's strongly conceived and modernistic designs throughout his tenure never compromised the supple femininity for which Chloé was renowned. After Lagerfeld's exit to takeover Chanel in the early 1980s, Chloé languished until Martine Sitbon was chosen to reinject a sense of originality and verve in 1987.
Sitbon embodied facets of Chloé's style which had been established in the 1960s—uncluttered designs drawing on popular culture, with distinct themes for each collection, translated into classic shapes for women confident of their own identity. Sitbon toned down the more overtly 1970s rock-influenced styles of her own named line to produce masculine tailored suits. These were softened by a dandyish swing to their cut and by delicately coloured silk chiffon blouses which blossomed into curving frilled collars. She defined Chloé's look during the 1980s and in the early 1990s, rounding the edges of the decade's often over-extravagant silhouette with well placed decoration and rich fabrics.
Sitbon left the label in 1991, and a desire to remain at the forefront of design prompted the return of Lagerfeld in 1992. He then captured the mood for unstructured easy-to-wear styles with his fluid slip dresses—harking back to the heights of his Chloé collections of the 1970s—and tapped the nostalgia for the flower child look upon which they drew. Lagerfeld adorned the faded print slips with flair, throwing long strings of beads around the models' necks and silk blooms in their hair. Although the initial reaction was uncertain, Chloé had judged the fashion moment for change well, and Lagerfeld once again fit comfortably into the house's mold.
When Lagerfeld bid adieu again in 1997, upstart Stella McCartney took the reins and reinvigorated Chloé, as well as its sales. Though many believed her girlish, feminine designs would attracted only younger women, her Chloé collections proved more sensual and sophisticated than anticipated, and crossed age barriers. Chloé's hipper image led to the opening of a new Manhattan boutique at the turn of the century, yet the house's new muse was lured away by Gucci in early 2001. McCartney left Chloé to create her own global label, and her longtime assistant, Phoebe Philo was hired as her replacement.
Chloé's place in history has already been assured by the house's ability to allow designers to flourish under its auspices. Lagerfeld, Sitbon, and McCartney all proffered their ideals of femininity and sophistication in designs for Chloé, keeping the house contemporary while still maintaining its classic style.
updated by OwenJames