One of Paris’s greatest cultural exports is the enduring idea that the city’s people, and its women in particular, dress better than anyone else in the world, and don’t even have to try very hard to do so.
That may be a myth, but it is a powerful one, and any brand that can successfully translate the dream of Gallic elegance into shoes, bags and perfumes has a very good chance of raking in the euros.
The new creative director at Chloé, Natacha Ramsay-Levi, presented a very convincing case for modern French style in her debut collection for the brand on Thursday.
Critics expected the new boss to bring a bit of edge to Chloé’s wafty lines, given that she has spent much of her career working as the righthand person to Nicolas Ghesquière, a designer known for his tough, sculptural designs at Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton.
She delivered on this front, combining embroidered blouses with Victorian necklines and ruffled silk dresses with a series of covetable cowboy-inspired boots with buckles and straps whose chunky heels confirmed the return of that noughties staple as a mega-trend for next spring.
There were rock’n’roll waistcoats, modern, undone takes on the floral dress and, the biggest surprise, lush velvet suits and blazers decorated with the rearing-horse motif made famous by Stella McCartney when she led the house in the noughties.
Some of the most arresting looks were simple – a long creamy dress under an equestrian-appropriate brown tailored jacket – and all of them, even the cocktail frocks with shimmering panels, made a seductive case for a mode of dressing that was luxe and feminine but effortless in its own way, in that whatever else they wore the models looked comfortable as they stomped down the catwalk in their thick-soled shoes.
Ramsay-Levi is not a huge name – this is her first creative director position – and she declined to do any post-show interviews. Press before the show described her as a visual art fanatic who dresses impeccably and puffs on cigarettes while pinning hems.
Her predecessor at Chloé, Clare Waight Keller, had a successful six-year tenure and is now at Givenchy, where she will present her first collection on Sunday, in one of the most anticipated shows of the season. Given that others who have held the top job at Chloé include McCartney, Céline’s Phoebe Philo and one Karl Lagerfeld, Ramsay-Levi could be one to watch if her second collection builds on this assured debut.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010