First-ever Chloé retrospective exhibit opens in New York(2023-24)





































bonyadi magazine






In what appears to be serendipitous timing, Richemont-owned Chloé is celebrating not only the woman who founded the effortless and feminine chic brand and her successors, but also the new female who will lead the French fashion label next, Chemena Kamali






The opening of the exhibit Mood of the moment: Gaby Aghion and the house of Chloé at The Jewish Museum on October 13 comes on the heels of Kamali's new role announcement earlier in the week


 visited the museum at a preview and chatted with two key women behind the exhibit, Choghakate Kazarian, guest curator, and Kristina Parsons, Leon Levy assistant curator, both under the tutelage of Claudia Gould, director emerita and exhibition project director of the museum


































While tensions in New York are high in reaction to the Israel-Hamas warmassive demonstrations blocked traffic outside the UN Tuesday, and at least two New York Bridal Week designers, Israelis Pnina Tornai and Galia Lahav, postponed and canceled respectively due to the conflict—press attendees at the Fifth Avenue space located on New York's Museum Mile were paused for a moment to take in the beautiful and peaceful world of the Chloé universe




The show, which features over 150 pieces of archival Chloé, opened with an emphasis on founder Gaby Aghion, nee Gabrielle Hanoka, in 1921, who was from an educated upper-class Jewish family in Alexandria, Egypt. She and her husband Raymond moved to Paris in 1945. Chloé, borrowed from a friend's name, was meant to be a chic solution to the hodge-podge of home seamstress-recreated couture clothing Aghion witnessed in the post-war Left Bank cultural scene. Thus, she founded Chloé as a ready-to-wear label in 1952






According to Parsons, telling Aghion's story was crucial for Gould.

"Claudia invests a lot of energy in researching under-recognized Jewish female entrepreneurs. Previous exhibit subjects include Helena Rubinstein [make-up empire] and Edith Halpert [art dealer], so it's like a third in a trilogy of those pioneering women that makes it a fit for The Jewish Museum," she told adding, "Choghakate was interested in telling Gaby's story. Unlike other houses that bear the creative directors' and founders' names, Aghion chose the name around this nascent RTW brand, and not many people know her. We felt it important to tell in part because of her ethos and approach to dressing: very free-spirited, light-hearted, and seemingly effortless. That ethos has really carried through," Parsons continued















The exhibit starts with a photomontage and timeline of Aghion's life. The first piece on display dates from 1960 (museum text mentioned many early styles were not archived), while Aghion was still considered the designer before moving on to artistic director and recruiting stylists for the brand, such as Karl Lagerfeld. The exhibit of mainly dresses is grouped by designers Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo—all three who started their careers at Chloé —as well as Hannah McGibbon, Clare Waight Keller, Natacha Ramsay-Levi and most recently, Gabriela Hearst. While their aesthetics vary, there is a thread of empowering women to free themselves despite the ideas of femininity shifting and adapting to women's needs over the last 70 years






One room is dedicated to the blouse, a signature of the brand. "I was interested in looking at the thread between the different eras of designers with the blouse and also a way to circle back to Gaby and her outfit. From the late fifties until her death, she wore the same outfit: a silk blouse in sandy colors and a long black skirt," Kazarian said herself, wearing a pinkish beige Chloé shirt, the result of a collaboration between Ramsay-Levi and artist Corita Kent, adding, "She didn't speak about Egypt a lot because she wasn't a nostalgic person, but when Gaby did she would say that Egypt had the most beautiful color of sand





Kazarian displayed the garment on hangers in many instances, much like they would be in someone's personal closet, often folded over. "I displayed them this way to show they are effortless, both archival and wearable," she explained







On display was one accessory: three versions of the Paddington bag, the first significant accessory for the house





It's a social icon, it's a cultural thing. This development is attributed to Philo's era as there was an economic shift toward accessories then," Kazarian said




While it might be the first-ever Chloé retrospective, it's not the museum's first fully dedicated fashion exhibit; Isaac Mizrahi's exhibit An Unruly History debuted there in 2016. According to Kazarian, in general, there aren't enough retrospectives of female creatives, noting several male design contemporaries had retrospectives in their 50s, and McCartney and Philo have reached that milestone





"The exhibit is timed perfectly to Chemena's appointment and Phoebe Philo's return at the end of the month; people can come to see her early work here," the guest curator said





With other names such as Sonia Rykiel and Donna Karan posed as exhibit subjects, Parsons reflected, "The New York post-war sportswear culture of fashion has so many important Jewish figures, it's a great story










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