CHLOE’ | Pret-A-Porter

Gaby-AghionGabrielle Aghion (née Hanoka; 1921 – 27 September 2014) was a French fashion designer and the founder of the French fashion house Chloé. She is said to have coined the phrase “prêt-à-porter“.

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Born in Alexandria, Egypt, the daughter of a cigarette factory manager, she met her husband, Raymond Aghion (1921–2009), when both were seven years old in elementary school. He was born into a wealthy family of cotton exporters, but displayed early stirrings of the social consciousness that would later land him in political exile. Gaby and Raymond, both Jewish, married at the age of 19. The couple moved to Paris in 1945. In Paris the Aghions gravitated toward the Communists, becoming close to writers Louis Aragon,Paul Éluard and Tristan Tzara. Gaby launched Chloé in 1952. Raymond opened an art gallery in 1956, specializing in modern art.

According to the website of Chloé, Aghion rejected the stiff formality of 1950s fashion and created soft, feminine, body conscious clothes from fine fabrics, and called them “luxury prêt-à-porter”. Unique for their time, they were beautifully made clothes available off the rack. She set up her workshop in a maid’s room above her large flat. In 1953, Gaby Aghion joined forces with Jacques Lenoir – he ran the business side and she ran the creative side. The duo put on the first Chloé show in 1956 at a breakfast at the Café de Flore, the epicentre of young intellectual Parisians of the 1940s and 1950s.

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Chloé first made waves as a Parisian fashion house in 1952, when Egyptian founder Gaby Aghion introduced the world’s first high-fashion ready-to-wear line she dubbed “luxury prêt-à-porter.” Karl Lagerfeld became the main designer in 1966, making Chloé one of the most iconic brands of the ’70s, worn by Jackie Kennedy, Brigitte Bardot, and Grace Kelly. In the late 1990s, Stella McCartney (daughter of Beatle Paul McCartney) brought the house even more acclaim.

But it wasn’t until McCartney’s assistant, Phoebe Philo, took over as creative director in the early 2000s that Chloé branched into the world of handbags, shoes, and other small leather goods. More than half a century after the company’s launch, Chloé made its entry into the slouchy oversized “It Bag” race, which thrived on middle-class fashionistas maxing out their credit cards on “must-have” designer bags.

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The Chloé Paddington, introduced in spring 2005, sold out its first run of 8,000 handbags before a single copy hit the boutique shelves. That feat had been previously unmatched by any other It Bag, including the Balenciaga Lariat, the FendiBaguette, or the Gucci Jackie bag. Named for its giant padlock, the soft, worn-in-looking Paddington had exaggerated functional attributes, like an extra-large zipper and hardware, that were so of-the-moment.

Riding the wave of the Paddington craze, Chloé introduced its Silverado Bag, a trapezoidal bag with whipstitched trim on the handles and side flap pockets. Chloé capitalized on these two popular handbags for a couple years, continually offering the Paddington and Silverado in new forms like satchels and hoboshoulder bags.ImageProxy (21)

In 2006, Chloé introduced the Gladys, a large modern-looking leather tote bag with one or more zippers around the circumference. The girlie name meant it was intended for It Bag status: Any woman who bought one could automatically have a sense of intimate familiarity with her purse, as if it were her new best friend. Same goes for the Betty, a casual leather satchel feather big bulging pockets with bold zippers on the front, and the Edith handbag, with its fold-over buckle enclosure and buckled side pockets.

Chloé, a brand owned by luxury behemoth Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), has also produced evening bags meant to be worn as bracelets and shoulder bags with big, chunky chains for the straps. The Chloé Bay Bag, a slouchy 2007 handbag with fat leather tabs that seem to form a smiling face on the front, got notoriety when it was carried by Britney Spears. The 2007 Heloise handbag featured braided leather on the handle. The 2009 Sally was a small flap bag with clean lines and a shoulder strap.

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Nearly four years after the Paddington craze, Chloé had another It Bag pre-order sell-out with its Paraty, a trapezoid bag with thick leather piping that also seemed to have a big smile on the front. Perhaps the celebrities, like Katie Holmes and Rachel Zoe, flocked to this one because it had both handles and a detachable shoulder strap. The streamlined 2009 Marcie bag, also carried by Holmes and Jessica Alba, had a similar smile-like front pocket design and a wrapped-leather handle.

 

Aghion, later retired from the public eye, said: “Everything was yet to be invented, and this thrilled me.” Aghion hired Karl Lagerfeld early in his career, and other emerging fashion designers. Her son, Philippe, recalls Lagerfeld coming to the company in the mid-1960s: “When he arrived from [the house of] Jean Patou, Karl was a shy individual. He and my mother made a fantastic team. He came into the spirit of Chloé.”

Gaby Aghion continued to run the house until 1985, when Chloé was bought-out by Dunhill Holdings (now Compagnie Financière Richemont Group). She died in Paris on 27 September 2014.

 

(Some excerpts taken from Collectors Weekly)

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