We might take for granted the idea of ready-to-wear, being such an integral part of how fashion is presented and sold to us, but the latest Chloé Attitudes exhibition, curated by the renowned exhibition-maker Judith Clark seeks to reassert that point as well as showcasing the number of themes and designer voices that have passed through the house. The founder Gaby Aghion, who was present at the exhibition, had a great eye for talent, commissioning Michele Rosier, Maxime de la Falaise and of course a young Karl Lagerfeld to design for the house. Lagerfeld, who also took a tour of the exhibition last night, was particularly prolific and unsurprisingly his work dominates the exhibition. Still, it's the overriding spirit of the house that prevails in the exhibition, laid out in themed cabinets and finished off with brilliant hair installations by Angelo Seminara. As Claire Waight Keller, the current creative director pointed out, "Every designer who has been with the house has shown their example of the Chloé attitude." Waight Keller draws inspiration from Aghion herself. "She's strong with great vitality and an amazing force of nature – that's the spirit of the Chloé woman." You wanted to ask, that with so many different designers working for the house, what was Aghion's own point of view. Curiously as common decorative themes kept cropping up in the exhibition – florals, ease of dress, witty prints, unabashed girliness – you would deduce that Aghion was the original Chloé girl. The thing to take away from the exhibit is the fluidity and free flowing aesthetic of the house, unrestricted by a strict identity, as evidenced by the sketches, photography and ensembles collected in the exhibition. Dazed Digital spoke to Clark about going through the Chloé archives and finding out more about the house that has seen so many creative voices pass through.
Dazed Digital: What was your primary goal when curating this exhibition about Chloé and how did you approach the archives?
Judith Clark: It was trying to come at it without any preconceptions, looking at the archives and seeing what themes came up. I didn't want it to be about a cult of personality or designer or have that cloud what I was going to say so I kept it to what I found in the archives. In a way I deconstructed the archives to put it together again. For instance the hedges from a photo by Guy Bourdin and the tumbling blocks floor is from a shawl that doesn't exist anymore. The tiling from the Brasserie Lipp (used in the exhibition) is a backdrop to a past Chloé presentation. It was taking all the elements of the archive and ironing them out. We kept on finding recurrences such as deco and florals and they became the themes of the cabinets that drive the exhibition.
DD: Karl Lagerfeld's work for Chloé makes up the majority of the exhibition. Why was that?
Judith Clark: He's famously prolific and he was there for twenty years. It wasn't a preference issue. A lot of what he did informed what Chloé is in our imagination. There's a lot of continuity between what he did and the tongue-in-cheek attitude to history that the others use. It wasn't forced at all. There's a humour that really runs through the archive.
DD: How did your perception of Chloé change after curating this exhibition?
Judith Clark: I fell in love with it more and more. The archive felt inexhaustible. When I feel like playing games in my own work and exhibition-making, it seemed like an infinite font of inspiration. What exhibition makers do is find history and embed it in a new structure and so you learn from these incredibly rich archives.