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PFW AW21: Gabriela Hearst makes her debut for Chloé

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

3 Mar 2021

At any other time, a debut collection from a new designer at Chloé would have been the hottest ticket at Paris Fashion Week, however, these aren’t ordinary times, and instead, the French fashion house showcased its autumn/winter 2021 collection with a digital catwalk on the deserted streets of Saint-Germain in Paris.

This was a collection, which not only marked the debut of Gabriela Hearst for Chloé, who succeeded Natacha Ramsay-Levi just months ago but also celebrated the centennial anniversary of Gaby Aghion’s birth, the founder of the French fashion house.

“From Gaby to Gabi, two ambitious women interpreting femininity in the context of their time,” explained the fashion house in the show notes. “And from Gabi to Gaby, the reassurance that, ‘Your House is in good hands’.”

Hearst explains that her first collection for Chloé is “informed and inspired by sustainability and a commitment to the greater good” that accelerates the Maisons sustainability plans, from implementation by 2025 to a new timeline of one year.

“In every piece, a sense of purpose,” notes Hearst, with the autumn/winter 2021 collection considered to be four times more sustainable compared to last year due to a shift to lower-impact raw materials.

Chloé boosts sustainable efforts with autumn/winter 2021 collection

Hearst has always been known for her eco-credentials and she is bringing that to Chloé, eliminating virgin synthetic fibre (polyester) or artificial cellulosic fibre (viscose) and sourcing recycled, reused and organic denim for her debut ready-to-wear collection for the fashion house. In addition, over 50 percent of silk comes from organic agriculture and more than 80 percent of cashmere yarn for knitwear is recycled.

It isn’t just the ready-to-wear, Hearst has also ensured that bags are lined in natural linen, and for the jewellery and metallic pieces on bags, the impact of the galvanisation process has been reduced through selecting one gold and one silver across all collections. Plus, Hearst has brought in sustainable suppliers from materials to packaging.

Chloé also added that this season, 20 percent of its ready-to-wear is being manufactured by World Fair Trade Organisation fair trade-guaranteed members.

Chloé partners with Manos del Uruguay and Sheltersuit to drive social change

Hearst also brought social action to the forefront for her debut at Chloé, with not one, but two partnerships with Manos del Uruguay and Sheltersuit to drive change for the women and men crafting pieces throughout the collection.

Sheltersuit is a non-profit organisation founded by Dutch fashion designer Bas Timmer that provides shelter for the homeless through full-length outerwear combining a jacket, duffel bag and sleeping bag. The team at the charity worked with Chloé to create a Sheltersuit Chloe Backpack using leftover fabric from the fashion house and for each bag sold Chloé will fund the making of two Sheltersuits.

“This is a project I was really looking forward to developing at Chloé, as it gives me the energy that comes from meaning and purpose. It grounds me in the reality that others are living today,” said Hearst. “I have deep admiration for Bas Timmer of Sheltersuit, a fellow designer who uses all of his abilities in the service of others – the most altruistic way to use design. Bas and his team worked at the Maison for 10 days where they created a Sheltersuit Chloe Backpack in four colours variations with repurposed materials from the house. The design is beautiful, joyful and functional; it is consciously made and for a greater good, providing immediate shelter to people experiencing homelessness.”

Three of the suits were showcased on the catwalk highlighting the leftover prints that pay homage to the history of the house and the craft of Sheltersuit.

Hearst, added: “This is part of the Chloé mission: weaving purpose to business endeavours in a post-pandemic world to help acknowledge and alleviate the hardship of others. A luxury brand has the duty to do so.”

Gabriela Hearst unveils her vision for Chloé with AW21 collection during Paris Fashion Week

Commenting on her starting point for her debut collection, Hearst explains that it began with a quote from Aghion: “There was no luxury ready-to-wear; well-made clothes with quality fabrics and fine detailing did not exist,” and a ceramic button, described as a “small yet tangible testament to quality”.

The ceramic button has been handmade in a Parisian workshop in soft marbled colours with a slightly irregular form ad can be found in woven pieces and knitwear, as well as on pendants for jewellery that decorate handbags.

The ready-to-wear highlighted many of the house codes like scalloped detailing, which Aghion applied to an early cotton pique dress in her 1960 show at Brasserie Lipp. For Hearst’s collection, scalloped detailing appears as top-stitching on georgette blouses, in petals of leather or denim patchwork, as a quilting technique and along the cuffs of knitwear.

Broderie Anglaise, often associated with one of Chloé’s most famous designers, Karl Lagerfeld, has also been reimagined, transformed from classic to contemporary as knitwear, and as leather edge.

The season’s motif is a colourful marbling effect, which was conceived in New York and utilises an artisanal technique using natural ingredients, while a complex intarsia butterfly appears on sweaters and scarves to raise awareness of the mass extinction throughout the insect world.

“If our insects go, we collapse as a species. This is why harmful herbicides and pesticides used in the making of our materials must be eliminated,” added Hearst.

The poncho blanket, called the “puffcho”, which has appeared in many Chloé collections over the years, was highlighted again, with fringe and stripes, and there was even an innovative poncho integrated with a puffer.

There was a strong knitwear offering, as you would expect from Hearst, which was defined by ultra-soft, recycled cashmere and multicolour stripes as a nod to her Uruguayan background.

The relaxed yet urban feel of the collection also showcased trench coats and tailored jackets that tie at the side to dresses in leather and wool gauze.

Chloé Edith bag the star of Hearst’s debut collection

“My first luxury handbag was the Chloé Edith bag and it is a piece I still love and wanted to pay homage to,” added Hearst.

This season the Edith bag has been re-issued staying true to its original design, with new styles including bags in recycled cashmere or with recycled jacquard and there is also a mini version, a tote and a doctor’s bag.

Alongside this reedition, 50 vintage Edith bags have been repurposed with leftover materials from this collection. Each is unique, or as Hearst states: “new isn’t always better.”

Other new styles include the Juana bag in scalloped quilting and patchwork leather, as well as handknitted leather totes embellished with a recycled wooden C knitted into the handle.

Images: courtesy of Chloé