With Natacha Ramsay-Levi leaving Chloé, can we stop playing designer musical chairs?
Natacha Ramsay-Levi, the cool French girl who brought Chloe a cool French chic that turned out … well, maybe a little too cool, announced Thursday that she was stepping down after four years as creative director. No successor has been appointed.
While her departure had been the subject of rumors for months – since the general manager who hired her, Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, left Almost exactly a year ago, when sales of the brand owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont were down, Ramsay-Levi said in a statement that leaving was her decision.
And while Chloe’s transition under her leadership from the windswept Provençal romanticism established by founder Gaby Aghion to harsher and more complicated hipness, has often been uncomfortable, her departure was conceived as a response to the pandemic and to the state of the world (rather than a push, though whispers suggest that was part of it as well).
“During the last few months of health, social and economic turmoil, I have reflected on the changes I wish to see in our industry and how to better align them with my own creative, intellectual and emotional values,” said Ms. Ramsay. -Levi in his statement. “It is this thinking that makes me see my future differently and the desire to pursue new opportunities.”
The news is also an opportunity for Richemont to see the future of the brand differently, and who may be the best person to achieve that future. It’s an opportunity to turn the now-familiar tale of “a talented designer who only lasted one contract at a great brand because vision and reality didn’t merge” into something more meaningful and compelling. .
Fashion has been locked in a paroxysm of change since March. First, the coronavirus has closed stores and factories and conducted online shows. Then the movement for social justice forced a hard account with the industry legacy of racism, and the still very white character of his leadership.
Yet despite all the talk about change and efforts to establish diversity and inclusion departments and frameworks, for all the scholarships created and the listening tours and confessions, giant strides visible, apart from notably more diverse advertising campaigns, have yet to occur.
And nothing is more visible in fashion than the designer at the top of a large house steeped in history.
The two biggest designer nominations since the start of the Twin Crises – at Givenchy and Fendi – have gone to white men: Matthew williams and Kim jones. When Antoine Arnault, head of communications for the LVMH group, the conglomerate that owns the two brands, was asked in September whether the group had considered a color designer for the Fendi post, he replied: “Frankly, no “. He added the caveat that talks had been going on with Mr Jones (already well known to the conglomerate through his role as artistic director of Dior Men) for several months, potentially starting before the world changed.
Such an excuse, however, won’t work with Chloe. As interesting as Ms. Ramsay-Levi’s work is, different from the creators who came before her – Karl Lagerfeld, Martine Sitbon, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, Hannah MacGibbon and Clare Waight Keller – and focused as she was on lifting. softness with more material and a hint of desert hedonism (she loved an armband, asymmetry, and a few complicated bindings with a nightie), she had one thing in common with most of them. As stated by Riccardo Bellini, Managing Director of Chloé, “She is an important member of this proud tradition of women who have designed at Chloé.”
More than that, she is part of a line of young white women struck in the crucible of European fashion tradition (Ms. Ramsay-Levi worked for 15 years with Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton) and scented with a breath of bohemianism, which Chloé designed. His departure has now given the nearly 70-year-old brand a chance to demonstrate its commitment to moving forward in a new direction: one that, perhaps, speaks to the changing makeup of its consumer base and face. changing world.
It would be a true declaration of intent if Chloe looked beyond the usual parameters of the fashion world to talent in more distant countries or regions; to engage with designers who bring different backgrounds and experiences to the table. Not to come back to the safety of a proven name, or a familiar profile, or a person trained in the rhythms of the old system, but rather to embrace someone willing to question all orthodoxies and agreements received.
Not to abandon its founding virtues of a certain feminine and fuzzy fantasy, but to recast them. For the long haul, not the next three seasons.
It’s a scary time for many brands – a time of flux and uncertainty. Handbags, the driving force behind fashion’s profitability for decades, are hardly needed any more. Glossy magazines, vectors of taste, disappear into the void. But it must also be seen as a moment when a company wishing to act on a set of values can transform.
Thinking very broadly of a designer is one way to start.