Chloé. Attitudes, an exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, takes a clever approach to chronicling the past of its maison. Using visual cues to regroup garments from its rich archive, the experience is accessibly thematic rather than historically linear.
One enters the exhibit through a corridor hung with images of assorted photographers. In an adjacent space, a small room is primarily dedicated to fashion images and advertising campaigns. The photographic works include those of Guy Bourdin (circa ‘70s and ‘80s), David LaChapelle (‘90s), Patrick Demarchelier and Peter Lindberg (2000s), plus a representative sampling of Inez Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin photos. All the visuals put forth a female image that is playfully spirited rather than hyper sexualized. (Even the Helmut Newton shot was relatively “well-behaved,” given his repertoire for debauchery.) It’s an unfortunately rare approach in the world of womenswear brands, to refuse to pander to a male gaze. So it’s reassuring to see a brand that instead chooses to represent a woman who’s laid-back, chic, fanciful, and self-assured. Perhaps this fact is accounted for, at least partially, by the fact that Chloé was founded by Gaby Aghion, a sharply intelligent, well-educated woman.
Since its inception in 1952, Chloé has been directed by a number of people, many of whom have gone on to do great work in their own right. The défilé of names, to cite but a few, spans Phoebe Philo, Martine Sitbon, Stella McCartney, and Karl Lagerfeld. The latter, known for the finery he creates at Chanel and for his incendiary-on-purpose sound bites, actually created fabulously funny and truly memorable works over the course of his Chloé stead. His tongue remained firmly in cheek during his ‘80s-era reign.
Several of his pieces are fully self-referential to the métier of couture itself: there’s a pearl necklace adorned with an actual-sized scissor pendant (sported by Inès de la Fressange on the runway in a nearby photo); another look includes fabulous accessories like a large spool-turned-bangle, and a large spiky pincushion-as-wrist-corsage. In another look, a long black dress has a sequined-scissors appliqué. It is angled and seems to be cutting open the black fabric, “revealing” black-and-white sequined trompe l’oeil stripes underneath.
Whimsical and memorable pieces continue with other themes. The musically-influenced heavily embellished blazer sported sizeable S-looking curves that are the recognizable signature of a cello. Meanwhile, a foxy cut-out dress linked its black caplet top-half to its slim skirt lower-half with the help of a gold-sequined violin silhouette. Other playful and imaginative garments are dotted with light-bulbs, sockets too, all fashioned in metallic threaded and variously shaped and textured sequins. Yet another trompe l’oeil dress—a silk crepe black-and-red number—features a showerhead sprouting near the upper shoulder/chest area, which rains clear glass beads down the torso, trickling steadily down towards the thigh.
Other standouts from the Chloé legacy include Yvan Mispeleare’s printed shantung dress, its primly pleated skirt offset with dainty beaded appliqués; the printed red silk Musette cape covered in cartoon birds, seen enshrouding young Anna Piaggi in a nearby photo; Stella McCartney’s provocative swimwear boasting a deep V and a pineapple-covered crotch. Present-day designer Clare Waight Keller’s recent S/S ’12 dresses were characterized by elegant accordion pleats, with the movement of the silk crepe fluttering at the slightest agitation of the air.
Elsewhere amidst the exhibition, one can sees the influence of board games, Sonia Delaunay, flowers, arrows, and Art Deco, each of which enhance the 60-year-old collection with an enticing mix of wit and beauty.
CHLOÉ. ATTITUDES on display through November 18, 2012 at PALAIS DE TOKYO 13, avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris.