“I have a very tender view of men and menswear. It’s not effeminate, it’s much kinder,” says designer Chloé Nardin, whose first post-graduate collection fuses sportswear and French historical references
- Who is it? Chloé Nardin is a France-born, London-based designer rewriting French sartorial codes with her tongue-in-cheek take on sportswear
- Why do I want it? Artfully crafted sportswear shaped by French historical references and a playful romance
- Where can I find it? Chloé Nardin will be showing with Untitled showroom for Paris Men’s Fashion Week
Who is it? Growing up outside of Paris, London-based designer Chloé Nardin observed a discord between the curated image of French fashion projected to the world, which centres on the cliched Parisian-chic uniforms of the capital, and the streetwear-inspired garments adopted by those around her. Now, with her eponymous label, the designer looks to playfully rewrite the sartorial narratives of her home country.
Nardin relocated from France to London to undertake her BA in Fashion (Womenswear) at the prestigious Central Saint Martins, before switching to Menswear for her MA – which she felt was the natural development of her vision (although the designer is quick to add that what she is doing now is more akin to “genderless” fashion). “I was really born in London,” says Nardin who was moved by how “people question things in London in an artistic and visual way.”
For her MA graduate collection Parc des Princes, Nardin debuted her tongue-in-cheek exploration of menswear. Combing her country’s textured history for inspiration, the designer sought to “decentralise” French style away from the capital and to include the urban uniforms of the surrounding suburbs. Cleverly crafting tracksuits from traditional Provençal fabrics – flecked with southern native motifs such as cicadas – and embroidering smocked tunics with French slang words and the logo of the national football team, Nardin innovated a fresh perspective on sportswear.
With Aurore, her first collection post-graduation, Nardin hopes to “set the groundwork for what it is I’m doing. To set the tone and translate it visually.” This process began with a redesign of her label’s logo. Conceived in collaboration with friend Carl Gustaf von Platen, the logo riffs on the iconic Playboy bunny in a nod to the playful romance that shapes the designer’s vision of men’s sportswear, as well as the fact that “I’m this chick doing menswear,” laughs Nardin. Yet the flattened form, which resembles a hare more than a bunny, is reminiscent of 16th-century French tapestries from which the designer so often draws inspiration.
Why do I want it? Nardin is first and foremost concerned with function, creating “clothes that can be lived in” – yet she also wants to challenge the “hierarchy” of garments that often places sportswear lazily at the bottom. Referencing French garments from the 1600s “which were quite universal in the way that you had a loose trouser and some kind of sash,” the designer graciously elevates sportswear beyond activewear: tracksuits with fine shoulder pleating, slouched jersey ensembles tied neatly together with waisted sashes – the borrowed historical touches add a daintiness that softens the often-hard-lined silhouettes of sportswear.
18th-century nightwear is also a source of inspiration for Nardin, which she considers to be the natural “ancestor of sportswear” in terms of its functionality. In her latest collection, slinky beanies revive the forgotten tradition of nightcaps and structured cotton tunics take nightdresses out of the bedroom and onto the streets.
These playful historical references belay the collection with a flirtatious romanticism à la française and buck the guarded hypermasculinity that is often associated with men’s athletic wear. “I have a very tender view of men and menswear. It’s not effeminate, it’s much kinder,” explains Nardin. And in this sense, the title of the collection – Aurore, the French word for twilight – so perfectly encapsulates the designer’s singular vision: a period of transition that opens the possibility for new, softer narratives of masculine wear.
For the lookbook, Nardin collaborated with stylist Gary David Moore, art director Clarke Ruddick, and photographer Benedict Brink to candidly weave fresh silhouettes, which layer sportswear with history, into a contemporary urban landscape. Tracksuit pants are gathered below the knee, like Baroque pantaloon breeches, exposing hitched tube socks in place of stockings, and checked shirts are fastened around the waist like a sash.
Above all, Nardin is a natural-born storyteller with a sensitivity for the lesser told tales of fashion, from both past and present. Fabrics are reused from collection to collection (the patchwork T-shirts from Aurore are crafted from off-cuts from Parc des Princes), creating a continuous narrative of romance and of masculinity to underpin her vision. But even as the story expands, Nardin hopes that it remains personal and human: “the essence, the story, the message of the brand is very much personal to me and kind of niche. I see it staying human, at my scale.”
Where can I find it? Chloé Nardin will be showing her latest collection with Untitled Showroom during Paris Men’s Fashion Week.