The fashion world owes a great deal to Gaby Aghion, the co-founder of French fashion house Chloé, who passed away Saturday at the age of 93. Aghion is said to have coined the term “pret-a-porter,” a pioneer of youthful fashion with the luxury bohemian vibe that is so coveted among fashion lovers and designers alike, Aghion burst on to the fashion scene full of ideas that would not only revamp French fashion but facilitate burgeoning design talent for decades.
When Aghion created her first collection Paris, 1952, she was mindful of branding. While all the other French designers dealt exclusively in haute couture, she would design ready-to-wear luxury, body hugging, feminine, and youthful. It has been documented that Aghion ran in bohemian circles in Paris, counting the likes of Pablo Picasso among her friends. Aghion wished to dress her friends over the stuffy Paris elite of her day, a philosophy that has been touted by many up-and-coming modern designers who would rather dress the girl about town than the upper echelon. An intangible cool, sexy vibe was synonymous with the Chloé name from the very beginning, due in large part to Aghion’s pioneering spirit, artistic roots and chic, easy elegance. Aghion named the brand after her friend, Chloé Huymans, a fitting story behind the label that would encapsulate Parisian feminine dressing like an in-the-know friend to the young in spirit and the stylish. Aghion was born in Egypt in 1921 and was quoted to say, “In Egypt, the sand is like silk. It is fluid, it moves,” explaining her choices of soft fabrics and the signature nude tones, ever-present within the Chloé aesthetic.
In 1959, Aghion would bring Gerard Pipart on board to design, Karl Lagerfeld would make a name for himself at the house when he joined in 1964. More recently, design talent like Stella McCartney, and Phoebe Philo carried on the legacy of the historic French label.
In their remembrance of Aghion, WWD, reports the French designer told the publication in 2012, “A lot of things did not exist in France. Everything was yet to be invented, and this thrilled me,” said Aghion, “I was carried away: It was like a tornado. I designed a small collection and decided to present it myself. I went to source the buttons, the fabrics. I was sticking my neck out.” Still close to her design roots over 60 years later, Aghion recalls the excitement, the risk, and the triumph of her design venture. With the passing of such a great pioneer of women’s wear, one must wonder if the world will ever see such discovery through women’s fashion again.
Chloé creative director, Clare Waight Keller paid homage to Aghion at the Sunday S/S ’15 show at Paris Fashion Week. Keller’s collection was all about the free spirit, embracing a very different decade from the 1950s, the designer was inspired by the 1973 Film The Wicker Man and Woodstock. Demonstrating that even when every fashion frontier has been done and done again, the Chloe girl will sashay through the uninspired, and the inorganic drawing from cool girls of the past to further inform stylish women of the present.
Chloé show at Brasserie Lipp, 1960.
(L) Chloé, 1960. (R) Clou dress, A/W 1959 by Gérard Pipar for Chloé.