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The Chloé Girl Makes a Return to Paris Fashion Week



For years the Chloé Girl was effectively another, more branded, version of the It Girl. You know: the sort of person for whom the word girl was less a judgment on age than a state of mind; the sort of person with a cool, somewhat careless magnetism, who had just enough accessibility that everyone couldn’t help thinking “goal.” And then imagined being her. Or at the very least, dressing like her.

It’s one of the most indelible brand avatars that fashion has ever created. I can’t think of another label that has such an imaginary person, rather than a logo, to embody it. Though it’s unclear exactly who came up with the name — maybe Chloé’s founder, Gaby Aghion, who created the brand as a liberated ready-to-wear alternative to the stuffy French couture of the 1950s — and though the Chloé Girl has had many incarnations under many different designers, for most people her most definitive self was created in the late 1970s by Karl Lagerfeld, with some updating by Phoebe Philo in the early Naughts.

That Chloé Girl is redolent of youth and energy; of freedom and romping in the sun-kissed daisy fields. She is a little bit hippie, a little bit rocker, a little bit romantic and a lot insouciant. She shares space with the Stevie Nicks and Jane Birkin (and even Kate Moss) of the mind. And although that version of the Chloé Girl had been absent from fashion for awhile, on Thursday in Paris Chemena Kamali, the new creative director of Chloé, brought her back.

She did it with airy ruffled chiffons that looked like a cross between a pirate’s shirt and an angel’s nightie, trailing sleeves to the floor, with the edge of the dress hem tucked into one leg of over-the-knee leather boots. With two-tone high-waist flared denim and lace. With capes in cashmere and patent, and a goldtone belt with “Chloé” in fancy script that was catchy even though it looked as though the “l” would jab you in the belly button. With too many thinly veiled breasts (please, can we get over this dumb styling choice?), but also matching chiffon shorts with pockets perfect for slouching. With a bit of cowboy fringe, shades, and big squishy shoulder bags. And she did it to the tunes of Kate Bush. (Of course.)

None of this is particularly new, but the aesthetic shtick has the same perennial appeal it had the first few times around, in part because since 2006 when Ms. Philo left Chloé no one else has been doing it quite as well. Not at Chloé itself, where designers such as Clare Waight Keller polished her Chloé Girl up a bit too much and Natacha Ramsay-Levi made hers too cool for school (and most consumers), and, recently, Gabriela Hearst made hers an awkward combination of artsy-craftsy and sophisticated. And not anywhere else for that matter, which means that, with Ms. Kamali, a new generation will get to discover the Chloé Girl as if for the first time.

And in all sorts of ways, since in no other brand is the designer so conflated with the idea. Ever since Stella McCartney was named creative director in 1997, there has been a sense that the head of Chloé should also be the quintessence of Chloé, and that means she must be a woman (forget the fact the designer who most costumed this character, was, in fact, a man). Whether you buy into that gender rule or not, in Ms. Kamali, Chloé has hit the jackpot.

Not only does she have Chloé in her blood, having done stints on the design teams of Ms. Philo and Ms. Waight Keller, but, as she took her bow at the end of the show in a Chloé beige shirt, a tangle of gold chains and those high-waist jeans, she practically glowed with Chloé Girl energy. Even though she is 42 and the mother of two (one of whom was so delighted to see her at the end of the show that he ran out onto the runway to give her a hug). As a colleague said to me after the show, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Get ready to wear a lot of wooden clogs and wedges again.

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