A world defined by closures and curfews meant that Gabriela Hearst’s first show as Chloe’s Creative Director in March was digital. This week, however, on the sunny banks of the Seine, the Uruguayan-born designer – who shows off her eponymous brand in New York City – presented the Chloe Spring 2022 collection to a live crowd.
Ms Hearst later spoke about her main inspirations this season and why she uses her podium to showcase the craftsmanship of nonprofits.
What made you most excited about unveiling this collection?
Probably be able to show our 250 guests – and the whole world – the creativity of the seven nonprofits we’ve worked with this season. I’ve always felt motivated to use my platform as a designer to showcase the work of others, and our design studio has worked with collectives on everything from clothing and shoes to stage and set. For example, the sliders were made in collaboration with Ocean Sole, which is based in Kenya, just like Mifuko, with whom we made the oversized woven basket bags. The knotted shell necklaces and harnesses were produced in Madagascar by Akanjo. Showcasing the creativity of others really gives me power. I want to show, through a program we call Chloé Craft, techniques that cannot be imitated by machines and mastered only by human hands.
You said this season was about love. How was this reflected?
Well, one way was the bright color palette. I actually sent my guests boxes of crayons before the show because I love to color and I do it constantly; my notebooks are full of them! It makes me happy and I feel like it is something everyone can do and share as an experience.
But this season was also about how to make larger-quantity items more environmentally friendly. The show started off with a series of white looks, which looked simple from a distance, but if you get up close, are made from the finest textured silks and sway with talismans. We purchased the charms from stock jewelry from old Parisian fashion houses. And recycled fabrics from previous seasons have been shredded and macrame into new garments. I like that we are using the old to make the new.
You participated in Chloe’s job interview with a 92-page brochure about your brand vision, including the sustainability goals. Are these progressing?
I wasn’t subtle about how much I wanted this job! Or particularly unsure of my plans for how I might execute them if I got it. But yes, basically it’s about showing that volume-generating products for luxury brands can have a lower impact. This season, 58% of our collection has used low impact materials – so more recycling and sourcing from farms focused on soil health and animal welfare – compared to 40% for winter 2021. We continue to collect information constantly so that we can make the right decisions on how to make our lines.
Are customers demanding more from you?
I am not naive. Very few people who buy luxury are motivated by good intentions alone. The product must also be absolutely stunning. But over the past couple of years, it has become clear that more and more of my clients want to know how things are made and bought. Maybe it’s because of the pandemic, although I think it’s also related to the fact that the effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent. It is the # 1 threat to our existence as a species.
People tell me I sound pretty fearless talking about this, but I’m terrified. I have deep anxiety about where we might end up and what world we might leave for our children. But I am also pragmatic and determined to move forward and seek solutions.
How do you juggle two roles of creative director, both for Chloe in Paris and for your eponymous brand in New York?
Well I take genuine joy and satisfaction from the design process and I am backed by amazing teams. Obviously, this experience can sometimes be difficult. It takes a physical toll and a lot of sacrifice to make sure you strike a certain balance, especially when it comes to family. But also, I wanted that. Wrong. I am grateful for the opportunity. So I can’t complain for a second because I wanted these things. It is a dream to do what I do.
This conversation, first broadcast on Instagram Live, has been edited and condensed.