For her 60s anniversary, Chloé's got attitude and a very good one. The long-awaited retrospective of the French Maison named “Chloé Attitudes” kicked off in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo – the world's largest institution for contemporary culture – on September 28, 2012 with a jolly bunch of industry professionals, fashionistas and celebrities alike.
From former Chloé designer Karl Lagerfeld to Anna Dello Russo, who recently launched her H&M collaboration, to the exclusive presence of the Maison's founder, Gaby Aghion, the swanky vernissage was on everybody's schedule. The reputed French Maison thereby welcomed the industry's A-list in dreamy installation settings of 10 thematic pedestals designed by curator Judith Clark, showcasing archived silhouettes of the Maison, next to a small photography installment, including Chloé shoots and editorials, with works by Guy Bourdin, picturing Jane Birkin in 1965 or Helmut Newton's portrait of Paloma Picasso – both commissioned by Vogue Paris in the early 70s.
Fashion history repeating
Exhibition-maker Judith Clark used the newly refurbished galleries on the ground-floor of Le Palais de Tokyo in order to stage a clever choice of archived pieces in playful set designs, underscored by the surrealistic hair styling of Angelo Seminara, who created interactions between the mannequins and the installations with his tongue-in-cheek hairdos.This said, Clark put the usual exhibition codes of a retrospective upside down, by not allowing any chronological or nostalgic presentation. She rather took the audience through the past 60 years of Chloé's history by respecting the sophisticated yet unpredictable Lolita image of the French Maison, opting for 10 cheeky thematic installations that encapsulated timeless style-codes through a smart mishmash of archived garments.
What Clark achieved to prove through this edgy take on a fashion retrospective was primary that trends are not time-bounded – the exact contrary of what the industry's fast-paced seasons suggest. They can rather be seen as a loose construct of attitudes, subjected to the designer's creativity and a certain fortuity that due to accumulation over the years, finally form what we call a signature style. The curator also came up with Chloé's so far unreleased, precious past; next to iconic looks set in thematic installations, a row of archived silhouettes underlined by drawings, and fabric samples dating from 1958 to 85, were on display to the public for the very first time.
King Karl's very best-of
Funny enough – as if Karl Lagerfeld's self-fulfilling prophecy of fashion's most reputed designer was untouchable – Lagerfeld played the major part of the exhibition when it came down to showcasing the various style codes of Chloé. Alongside the key pieces from each of Chloé’s designers, under Aghion's good will: Gérard Pipart, Maxime de La Falaise, Martine Sitbon, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, Hannah MacGibbon, and Clare Waight Keller – seventy pieces represented the brand's inventive and feminine identity.
While Aghion's ambitious and informal first fashion show at Paris' beloved Café de Flore in 1956 introduced to the Art Déco trend, Lagerfeld added a further dramatic take one the fin-de-siècle atmosphere, inspired by Aghion's egyptian aesthetics that rubbed off on silhouettes from the 70s to the 90s. Then, Lagerfeld's Flora & Fauna pieces for Chloé set the tone in the 70s next to psychedelic inspired silhouettes of Pheobe Philo, that played with notions of femininity and hippie language with airy chiffon daywear. Bold graphic prints of the 60s, associated to the Bauhaus aesthetics and echoes of Aubrey Beardsley's artistic illustrations were worth-watching.
A further strong contribution of King Karl to Chloé's heritage would be his electrical power silhouettes most present throughout the 80s and 90s, as well as his trompe-l'oeil Grecian gowns, assigned to the same period, next to the sophisticated and yet amusing Showerhead Dress that was indeed showcased in a shower installation by Judith Clark. This said, even if Lagerfeld's creative implication in Chloé's legacy is undeniable, other reputed designers also made their contribution via innovative on-trend ideas.
Stella McCartney's Wild Horses-inspired spring/summer 2001 collection was the starting point for the déco beach installation of one of the exhibition boxes, while Pheobe Philo's spring/summer 2004 season inspired the scenery of a surreal imagery of blown-up bananas. On their side, Hannah MacGibbon's cornfields and Clare Weight Keller's contemporary clean lines, grids and sleek layering, undeniably leapfrogged Chloé's signature style into the future.
When talking about the future, the growing digitization cannot be overlooked – which was considered by the Maison when launching its very own ABC rehearsals on its homepage. For all the fierce fans and for those who can't make it to the exhibition before its November 18 end date, Chloé now provides its own Alphabet: a playful and fashionable online dictionary that will help to analyze the Maison's accumulated legacy through seven decades of fashion, with simple, descriptive key words that come along with short films and pictures. ‘The Alphabet’ is even available in 6 languages on computers, smartphones and tablets.
Fancy to know more about the Maison's “Embroidery” or “Counter-Couture”? Go to Chloé's Alphabet (http://www.chloe.com/alphabet) and simply choose one of the 26 letters in the alphabet to enter Chloé's compelling new experience.
- Elisabeta Tudor