There’s a reason they’re called Chloé girls. Ever since Gaby Aghion established the house in 1952 – creating prêt-à-porter in the French fashion scene for the first time – Chloé has been the place where pretty young things find flou. A dip into the archives reveals decades of lovely dresses decorated in artistic prints, hand-painted scenery, and embroidery – but unified by a theme of youth and traditional femininity. When Natacha Ramsay-Levi took over the house, the Chloé girl evolved overnight. Suddenly, she was a woman; sophisticated, self-assured, and stylish.
For Fall/Winter 2020, Ramsay-Levi’s woman became a woman of the world, singular in character and hitting her globe-trotting stride in thick-soled boots. Backed by sculptural Tectonies installations by Marion Verboom and scored by the low rasp of Marianne Faithfull reading poetry, the worldly message came through. The show’s theme was If You Listen Carefully, I’ll Show You How to Dance. The Chloé woman has an assertive point of view. Traditional female codes were replicated and then twisted slightly to make the viewer look twice.
The Chloé woman has an assertive point of view.
Examples range from Western embroidery that creeped up the sleeves of filmy plaid shirtdresses, appliquéd shirt pockets that read “Leave Me Alone” in small font, prairie paisleys that looked more stern than sweet, and wide-leg trousers and jeans that were baggy through the thigh – more JNCO than bell bottom. Outerwear is always a strong point for Ramsay-Levi, and this collection was no exception. We especially loved the shearling-lined bombers with overwide collars and belted safari jackets.
In a sea of smart, striking looks, it was Ramsay-Levi’s artistic collaboration with Rita Ackermann that stood out the most. Ackermann’s female figures were replicated from her archives and printed on shirting and dresses. The faces of Ackermann’s paintings were both startling and haunting, leading the viewer to guess at the mood of the wearer. We got the feeling that whoever wears the Ackermann art-adorned pieces is not one to suffer fools. While some collections are taking great care to trumpet feminist messaging, Ramsay-Levi’s version was subtle, but convincing.