THE CHLOÉ AW23 SHOW EXPLORES THE NEED FOR WOMEN’S STORIES AND THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS TO SOCIETY
“I will show your lordship what a woman can do.” – Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 — c. 1656)
For the Chloé Autumn-Winter 2023 show (AW23), Creative Director Gabriela Hearst explores the imperative need for women’s stories and their contributions to society—too often overlooked or suppressed—to be brought out of the shadows so they can play a leading role in the race to find climate solutions.
Inspired by 17th-century Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, who overcame a range of societal and personal struggles to emerge as one of the most celebrated female artists of her time, the AW23 collection forms the third chapter in Gabriela’s exploration of climate success and the urgent need to champion women as leaders.
Although climate change impacts everyone, as gender inequalities continue to persist around the world, women and girls are disproportionately affected. According to the United Nations Development Programme, four out of five people displaced by climate change are women. Yet research shows that women’s innovations and expertise have transformed lives and livelihoods, and increased climate resilience and overall well-being. As a recent article in The Economist stated: “Climate change is a threat multiplier, but women can be solution multipliers.” Creative Director Gabriela introduced a new approach to structuring her Chloé collections as chapters—each dedicated to a pioneering climate solution, turning the fashion show into a vehicle for disseminating these ideas to a wider audience. Autumn-Winter 2022 looked at the planet’s
proven intrinsic ability to rehabilitate itself when it is left to do so. Spring- Summer 2023 explored the potential for abundant, scalable, clean energy to wean people off fossil fuels. Now, chapter three—AW23—focuses on the need to see women in roles of leadership and the power of an almost Renaissance-like approach; where visionary artists, creatives and scientists come together to create a future where people and the planet thrive.
It is the life as much as the work of Artemisia that is the muse of the season. Artemisia lived at a time when women’s bodies and choices were strongly regulated, but she managed to subvert the norms of the time and use her art and voice to advocate for women, and overcomes biases around women’s creative potential.
Almost all of Artemisia’s surviving works feature women as key characters, often depicted in a higher position to men—a representation of dominance that was unusual at the time—and many centre on themes relating to powerful women. One allegory in particular that runs through the AW23 collection, is the story of Esther before Ahasuerus (c. 1629). The painting depicts the heroic figure of Esther as a vision of truth and power—risking her life to successfully convince the formidable King Ahasuerus—who had ordered the execution of all Jews in the Persian Empire—to spare her people. Coincidentally, the AW23 Chloé show occurs just days before Purim —the Jewish holiday that commemorates the events of the Book of Esther.
In the AW23 collection, the Book of Esther is transposed onto dresses and bags as a graphic, multicoloured, tapestry—the work of the Mumbai-based Chanakya International embroidery studio, which through its craft school provides women from low-income communities with a high-quality education in hand embroidery. The Book of Esther is also reinterpreted in black and brown contrast embroideries on a leather skirt and matching jacket.
Renaissance-inspired silhouettes, innovative fabrications and unexpected materials reflect the feminine power of Artemisia’s paintings and her steely conviction. A puffer cape coat with ruching along the seams is made from recycled nylon. An off-the-shoulder dress cut above the knee with bishop sleeves is cut from Nappa leather—a modernist, graphic take on the Renaissance. The use of black and white contrasting fabrics accentuates the heart-shaped waists and high necklines of dresses, imbuing these historic references with a contemporary aesthetic. Lower-impact wool gauze—a Chloé pillar fabric—delivers a subtle statement of feminine power with its ethereal quality and is used in a range of garments including capes and long dresses.
Renaissance architecture inspired a multitude of fabrications that demonstrate the Maison’s savoir-faire. A dégradé pattern of black satin diamonds is hand-appliquéd onto wool. A graphic material made from thin strips of black, white and yellow fabric is sewn together by our partners Akanjo and is used for coats.
Trousers are assiduously constructed from intricate lattice formations of hand- inserted leather braids and pintucks. The boundaries of fabric development has been explored. New lace techniques have been developed for a figure-hugging dress to give it stretch and ease for the active woman. An oversized cape dress is knitted from a cashmere and silk ‘faux fur’. The panelling of dresses with horizontal and vertical lines is based on crinoline pattern pieces but engineered on the knitting machine to introduce a sense of Chloé flou and femininity into the knitwear.
The Marcie, which turns 13 this year, transcends its iconic bag silhouette and is deconstructed into a leather biker jacket and matching trousers as well as loafers. Footwear designs based on the new Raina rainboot’s Bio-based TPU sole are transformed into thigh-high styles with leather uppers. A feminine touch is brought to boyish boots in the form of a golden heel and sandals are adorned with a buckle inspired by the Chloé archives.
Leather bag designs inspired by Medieval coin purses are carried in hand. The Penelope bag, which debuted in the Summer 2023 collection, comes in box leather, suede patchwork and embellished shearling, and is finished with artisanal touches, such as braided leather and a signature metal coin closure inspired by the Maison’s jewellery archive. A new mini version for AW23 is embellished with a chain.
Gayia eyewear, which is made using the innovative ReAce material—a 100% recycled acetate derived from pre-consumer scraps—is available in three new shapes and the limited edition seasonal palette of ‘Forest Brown’, ‘Sparkling Sand’, ‘Neon Green’ and ‘Amethyst Violet’ as well as the Black and Havana continuity options.
Baroque pearls, hand-blown glass droplets and raw semi-precious stones are all centrepieces of the AW23 jewellery, which spans necklaces and earrings and body jewellery that directly reference Artemisia’s paintings. The jewellery’s organic shapes and formations—reminiscent of cameos—are symbolic of how nature creates beauty with the same prowess as an artisan’s hand.
Chloé’s continuous efforts to reduce its carbon footprint extends beyond its use of lower-impact materials for its collections—this mindset is followed through to the fabrication of its show concepts. The seating at the show was designed by Antoine Dumas and Benjamin Gavron of Gavron Dumas Studio and will be used in Chloé boutiques before being donated to charity for reuse and repurposing. The Maison also fosters its existing partnerships with social enterprises that have a common goal of uplifting women and eliminating the barriers that stop them from reaching their full potential.
It has also initiated new partnerships with the likes of the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), which aims to transform fashion into an engine for poverty reduction and women’s empowerment, whose artisans in East Africa hand- crafted the golden nugget embellishments and buttons that run throughout the collection.