chloé's new creative director reported to be natacha ramsay-levi
Sources say Nicolas Ghesquière’s right-hand woman at Louis Vuitton will take over from Clare Waight Keller.
Chloé fall/winter 16, photography Jason Lloyd Evans
Last year, Dior made major waves when the 70-year-old house appointed its first ever female creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. It was a major step towards gender equality in fashion's highest ranks, where men overwhelmingly still retain top positions. Yet not so at Chloé, the French house founded by Gaby Aghion in the early 50s. Following Karl Lagerfeld's pioneering tenure in the 70s, Chloé has championed many of fashion's most talented and visionary female designers. Martine Sitbon, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, and Hannah McGibbon have all served as the brand's artistic director — a title that has belonged to Clare Waight Keller for the past six years. If recent reports are accurate, it will soon be held by Natacha Ramsay-Levi.
Yesterday, Reuters announced that Waight Keller will not renew her Chloé contract when it ends in March (like Philo before her, the mother of three does not wish to continue commuting between her family home in London and Chloé's base in Paris). The wire also reported that Waight Keller's successor has been found at another French powerhouse, Louis Vuitton. Ramsay-Levi, Nicolas Ghesquière's second-in-command, is said to be named Chloé's new artistic director. Ramsay-Levi's rumored appointment would confirm initial reports by WWD last month that revealed the designer had taken meetings with Chloé, but did not indicate Waight Keller's departure. Richemont, Chloé's parent company, has yet to confirm Reuters's intel; but if true, it's an exciting new chapter in Chloé's female-first legacy.
Ramsay-Levi has been working with Ghesquière for over a decade, beginning in 2002, when she applied to intern at Balenciaga. Initially intending to become a historian, Ramsay-Levi "threw everything aside before my studies started" when she came into contact with Balenciaga's designs. "The silhouette! The girl that Nicolas Ghesquière had in mind! I really wanted to be a Balenciaga girl: young, cool, androgynous," she told Interview Germany in a 2015 profile. "Since the team was still very small, I immediately worked closely with Nicolas and researched moods for him. The brand grew pretty fast at the time, and I was a design director in record time," she continued. In 2012, The Guardian reported Ramsay-Levi was even considered for Balenciaga's top spot following her boss's notable departure, though the position eventually went to Alexander Wang. Following Ghesquière to Louis Vuitton, Ramsay-Levi has, according to Reuters, become a crucial communicator. "As design director, she was the only person the studio's designers and assistants regularly spoke to, as Ghesquière rarely interacted with them directly," former studio employees told the wire.
As to the new creative direction Ramsay-Levi will set, we have a few clues. As a co-parent with and sometime-partner of Purple editor Olivier Zahm, she's been a fixture on the Purple Diary since its early days, often wearing Ghesquière-designed dresses with bare legs and high shoes. She also credits Zahm with introducing her to influential French stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington, "my style heroine," Ramsay-Levi noted in Interview Germany. "Unfortunately we have never worked together. That would be a dream." Given that Bidault-Waddington has done consulting work for Chloé in the past, it may soon be a dream come true. And considering Ramsay-Levi's years of collaboration with Ghesquière — beloved for his sci-fi influenced structuralism — it's unsurprising that she is, according to Reuters, "associated with modern looks involving hard fabrics such as leather and synthetics, at odds with [Chloé's] traditional flowing romantic silhouettes." That may be true, but Alessandro Michele's maximalist geek-chic has little in common with the ultra-sexy glam that defined Gucci under Tom Ford and Frida Giannini's creative direction. With sales steadily climbing across all product categories, you don't hear the Italian house complaining about its new path.
As W notes, Ramsay-Levi's contract at Louis Vuitton extends through the house's next collection. So if she is to succeed Waight Keller, her debut Chloé collection will not be revealed until the fall. Keep your eyes peeled.
*Update, March 10, 2017: Natacha Ramsay-Levi is confirmed as the creative director of Chloé.
Text Emily Manning