In 1952, Gaby Aghion borrowed her good friend Chloé’s name to start a fashion house. In turn, the rest of the fashion industry would borrow a term from her: prêt-à-porter, which is used ubiquitously in translation today as ready-to-wear. She coined the term for her luxury off-the-rack designs, which were one of the first available in this easy manner (compared to the more time-consuming couture), as well as softer and more feminine in design. Her T-shirt dresses were unexpectedly avant-garde for the postwar era.
Here, AnOther looks at the five codes of Chloé style that have been established at the house over the last 60 years.
In 1967, David Bailey shot Jean Shrimpton in a pair of wide, white culottes and a camisole top by Chloé, wrists stacked with candy bracelets. The following year Guy Bourdin photographed Jean Birkin in an asymmetrical tunic over loose, white jersey trousers with ringlet curls. Inspired by his holidays in Marrakech and the romanticism of the hippie decade, Lagerfeld guided Chloé’s campaigns throughout the 1960s, cementing the identity of the brand.
Sarah Mower: "Gaby [Aghion] had a knack for answering the aspirations of contemporary girls – the kind of French girls who were getting their ideas about fashion from watching Nouvelle Vague films and Hollywood movies. Chloé's pristine scalloped-edge broderie anglaise sundresses, neat blouses and little skirts would have looked perfect on the cropped-haired twenty-year old gamines Leslie Caron in An American in Paris." From Aghion’s ruffled bodices and Sitbon’s polka dots to the flesh pink transparencies championed by Lagerfeld in the 1970s, Chloé spins a modern approach to femininity.
Sarah Mower: "When Gaby and Raymond left Egypt for France on one of the first British troopships to sail after the war, she took the sights and impressions of her homeland with her. She remembers her love of the beige of the silk-like desert sand, the color of the pyramids, the sheer pinks of the dawn." Chloé has maintained a delicate colour palette of soft pastels and tan: pale pink, green, vanilla and bois de rose grounded by desert khaki and light bronze, in the form of crepes, taffetas and chiffon.
4. Scalloped edging
Sarah Mower: “Gaby Aghion used scalloped edging on an early cotton piqué Chloé dress in her 1960 show at Brasserie Lipp, also used by Karl Lagerfeld on an impeccable white Chloé trouser suit in 1972.” Christopher Kane’s S/S09 show presented bold organza scalloped dresses and shoulders, while Valentino’s A/W12 collection featured delicate scalloped necklines and trims. It is a recurring catwalk theme, one definitively inspired by the bourdon-stitch border birthed by Aghion in the 1960s.
Phoebe Philo: “We all try on the clothes. Sometimes late at night we’re running around like mad freaks wearing the samples.” Youth and esprit runs through each Chloé collection, be it in Sitbon’s nostalgic beaded hems or Philo’s metallic embroidery, polo shirts and pleated denim belts.
Chloe: Attitudes is out now, published by Rizzoli.
Text by Mhairi Graham