‘Innately low-impact’: Chloé brings eco-chic to Paris fashion week | Paris fashion week
Gabriela Hearst, the creative director of Chloé, is bringing the values of the climate emergency era to Paris fashion week’s top table. The Chloé woman, once all carefree insouciance, now cares very much.
For almost 70 years, under stellar designer alumni from Karl Lagerfeld to Phoebe Philo, Chloé’s USP was that it consistently made the prettiest clothes in Paris. Since Hearst’s arrival last year, Chloé has been trying to make the most sustainable clothes instead.
Hearst and her team “believe luxury fashion has become overly industrialised”. So the rainbow-bright vest dresses on the catwalk were crocheted by hand. Necklaces were made from seashells knotted on to twists of leftover fabric from previous collections. Handbags were created by knitting more strands of deadstock fabric, and had hand-braided leather handles. The artisan-produced pieces, which the house believes are “innately low-impact”, will be given the highest status in boutiques and embossed with a “Chloé Craft” logo.
Chloé’s price tags are such that its overall impact on the fashion industry’s eco balance sheet, dangerously in the red, will be minimal. The artisan methods with which Hearst is transforming the deep-pocketed Chloé brand cannot be transferred to fast fashion, which is responsible for most of fashion’s environmental impact. But Hearst hopes that putting hand-knitted and crocheted dresses under the Paris fashion week spotlight can have a trickle-down effect on fashion’s culture by making sustainable clothing aspirational.
Crafted pieces will make up only a small proportion of stock sold in Chloé stores, but there has been some progress in making the items produced in larger quantities more eco-conscious. Clothing and bag linings have been switched from cotton to linen, the production of which emits fewer greenhouse gases and requires less water. Basket bags are now constructed from a mix of straw and recycled wool. The chunky soles of flatform sandals are made from upcycled flip-flops. This is done in partnership with Kenyan social enterprise Ocean Sole, which employs about 90 people from low-income areas to reshape flip-flops washed up on beaches.
The outdoor show was high-end Parisian chic, staged on a cobblestoned bank of the Seine, with Notre Dame Cathedral and the picturesque Île Saint-Louis serving as the backdrop. The industry guests were outnumbered by a large crowd who gathered on the Pont de la Tournelle bridge to watch the show. In the front row, actors Demi Moore and Gillian Anderson sat on benches constructed from low impact, raw earth bricks by Les Bâtisseuses, a local network which trains female refugees in eco-construction. The aim is to integrate the women into French society and bring diversity to the building trade.
The on-the-street setting was in keeping with Hearst’s Chloé debut, which was staged at night on a pandemic-deserted Boulevard Saint-Germain in March. Where that was streamed online to lockdown audiences, this season marked a return to live shows. Alongside her role at Chloé, Hearst continues to run her eponymous fashion label, which is a favourite of Oprah Winfrey, Jill Biden and the Duchess of Sussex.