The fashion-industry spin cycle seems to stop just long enough to eject one designer, only to acquire a newcomer at equally rapid speed. It only seems natural, therefore, that 2017 should begin with the news that French luxury brand and “It” girl status-symbol provider Chloé is losing its beloved Creative Director Clare Waight Keller.
As a London native, Keller – who moved with her family to Paris upon landing the position at Chloé in 2011 – missed the sights and sounds of her home city. Earlier last year, she and her family moved back to London, forcing the designer to commute back and forth between the two fashion capitals. Clearly, this choice took its toll on Waight Keller, as it is the reason given for her impending departure from the brand. Coincidentally, this is the same reason that Phoebe Philo cited when she left the brand in 2006.
Waight Keller’s legacy at Chloé involves intuitively feminine designs and a carefree, free-spirited attitude found in coveted collections awash with vibrant pastels, diaphanous dresses, and instant-classic handbags. Like most designers who have spent a significant amount of time at their positions, Waight Keller and Chloé are inextricably linked in the eyes of the public, making this news particularly difficult for longtime patrons of her work.
While Chloé’s parent company Richemont has not yet confirmed the departure, it is all but a foregone conclusion that Waight Keller will refuse to renew her contract when it ends in March. There are rumors that Natacha Ramsay-Levi, Nicolas Ghesquière’s second-in-command at Louis Vuitton, is waiting in the wings to assume Waight Keller’s position at Chloé. Although her name is not immediately recognizable, Ramsay-Levi has a long history of working in the industry. She reportedly started out in fashion as a coffee girl at Balenciaga, where she first met Ghesquière during his fifth year of tenure at the house.
When he departed Balenciaga, Ramsay-Levi followed, and has since become instrumental in executing his designs at Louis Vuitton. If she is the heir to Waight Keller’s throne, we won’t see her first collection until Spring/Summer 2018 as her contract with Louis Vuitton does not expire until the Fall/Winter 2017 collection is shown in March. By extension, Ramsay-Levi’s rumored move to Chloé might be packaged with another designer departure – that of Ghesquière himself.
Last year, the celebrated designer was plagued with rumors about his departure from Louis Vuitton, especially after he went on the French talk show Le Petit Journal and confessed that he wanted to design his own line “soon”. After the tremendous success of his Spring/Summer 2017 collection, which moved the needle in terms of brand aesthetics and has proven to be both a critical and commercial success thus far, it would be sad to see him go. However, if there is any designer working the world today that we would love to see design their own line, Ghesquière would be it.