Clare Waight Keller
The fashion world seems to be dominated by male designers so its both refreshing and exciting when you meet a woman who creates clothes that we not only love to look at but also want to wear. Chloe’s creative director Clare Waight Keller is one of those designers.
She was in Hong Kong recently to open Chloe’s new flagship in Central and I had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with her. It’s very hard not to be charmed by her sense of adventure (she loves to travel, always with her three kids in town), graciousness and honest approach to her work. I can’t think of a better fit for a brand that is all about femininity and celebrating the modern woman.
Read on to find out more about her…
Clare’s favourite styles from Chloe’s spring/summer 2013 collection
What attracted you to fashion?
My mum always had lots of material around the house, and made clothes for us since we were little. So I ended up subconsciously absorbing this idea of making things. It was only when I got further into my senior school that I realised I was interested in fashion. Fashion felt really right, and I was good at it. You always go with your instinct.
You’ve worked at many brands including Gucci, Calvin Klein and most recently Pringle of Scotland. How did Chloe come into the picture?
I have always loved Chloe. As a woman, it’s always been one of the brands that I had been fascinated by. And of course it got the big buzz when Stella [McCartney] came in back in 1997, and resurfaced as a brand that women wanted to wear. Over the past 10 years a group of young women have gone over and reinterpreted the ideas in a modern era. It suddenly really became one of the brands I wanted to work with. So when they made me the offer it took two seconds for me to say yes!
You joined when Chloe was going through a rocky period. How did you want to move the brand forward?
For me it was important to understand the roots of the brand. It was interesting coming in at a time when they were celebrating 60 years because we had an avalanche of archives arrive in the office. All of the sudden I could see the beginnings of the brand and how it went through all these different transitions. Its always had many designers so it didn’t phase me that there are all these different interpretations of Chloe. In the end that’s given the house its personality.
What era have you referenced most since you joined in 2011?
There is a period of Karl [Lagerfeld’s] in the 1970s that was playful, quirky and interesting. I loved his plays with realism that you wouldn’t normal associate with Chloe. He was a projecting a much more powerful woman, and more independent and striking woman. For me that is what I have kind of dipped into.
You’ve been there four seasons now – what elements have you added that you are most proud of?
For me, it’s that British French mix – the boyishness. Maybe it comes from working on menswear. I think it’s something Stella touched on in the beginning but she went into a more rock ‘n’ roll sense. I have brought it in but with a more polished, French sensibility. It mixes a feminine, girlier side of Chloe with a little bit more rigour and strictness.
Who is your Chloe girl?
She is someone who loves style. The thing about Chloe is that it doesn’t rest on a logo, or an iconic suit. It really rests on an attitude. I think what was interesting for me was that most of the designers of Chloe over the last decade have been women who are capturing the spirit of the moment. Now I guess I get to do that.
Where do you get your inspiration?
It is a mix of things. Generally I start with a mood for the season, and it can be inspired by photography, or a certain woman from a certain era. It changes all the time. I often take colour palettes from artists, particularly photographers.
Chloe’s new flagship at Prince’s Building, Central
What are your favourite pieces from spring/summer 2013?
I loved all the last series of the evening dresses with the fan pleats. It was a little hint back at Karl’s fan era. I think they portray a feminine side of Chloe but in a sharper sense, while still being playful.
What one piece should every woman own from Chloe?
It has to be a blouse. The Chloe blouse is the go-to thing in your wardrobe.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I think it’s trying to do the right thing for the brand at the right moment. You are always trying to push the boundaries but sometimes you feel that there is a limit to what you can do. You wish you could go further, but there are certain aspects that have to be right. I always tweak and play with things. Like this particular autumn/winter season, I went for a lot more strength than Chloe has ever seen before. And sometimes I think it’s good to do opposites. It is that real fine balance to really make the collection feel concise with strong point of view, but fundamentally, Chloe.
What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I hope people will understand Chloe as a brand that is fresh and relevant. For me it is really about the customer. There is no point in doing the runway shows, and then having no one wear [your clothes]. I think it’s so important to design dresses that real women buy. That is what Chloe has always been about. It’s what is relevant.
What would you be if you weren’t a fashion designer?
I would do something with science. It sounds boring but actually I am really interested in evolution. I watch a lot of nature shows and am fascinated by it. I was really good at art, and really good at Biology. I would have probably taken tha [Biology] route, but I just got captured by fashion.