House swap: a host of gifted movers and shakers is modernising fashion’s leading maisons
Young talent has been tasked with bringing oomph and impetus to some of the biggest brands in Paris, Milan and New York, on occasion turning them on their heads (as with Helmut Lang, where Hood By Air’s Shayne Oliver has been enlisted to reboot), or at least injecting them with a healthy dose of fresh creative energy. Luke and Lucie Meier, a married couple whose previous experience ranges from Dior to Supreme, have been signed up to recharge Jil Sander. And delivered. Same goes for Carven, whose new creative director Serge Ruffieux has shown a flair for beautifully made contemporary womenswear. Here, though, is our pick of the most notable new arrivals in A-list ateliers.
Illustrator: Magda Antoniuk
Ramsay-Levi had been on Parisians’ radar long before January 2017’s announcement that she would be taking Clare Waight Keller’s place at Chloé. A decade ago Ramsay-Levi was something of an it-girl and party-page fixture. She wanted to be a historian until she saw Nicolas Ghesquière’s work for Balenciaga, joined the company as his intern and graduated to a designer role. When Ghesquière moved to Louis Vuitton in November 2013, she followed him as creative director of women’s ready-to-wear, earning a reputation for translating his direction into saleable looks. He remains one of her most vocal supporters. ‘I have watched her grow into the determined and talented woman she is today,’ he said recently. ‘It is going to be very exciting to see her rise and create her signature.’
Ramsay-Levi’s insider experience and her product savvy attitude made her the ideal candidate for Chloé at a crucial time for the house, which recently revealed ambitious expansion plans, including an array of new stores and a greater product range. The first Frenchwoman to lead the brand in more than 25 years, Ramsay-Levi says of her take on the Parisian maison: ‘Chloé girls have a suave mix of sophistication and humility; they are timeless but never conventional. I want to continue to shape their course, staying true to the independent and intellectual spirit of Gaby Aghion [Chloé’s founder], and to those who perpetuated this democratic style, so resolutely feminine, so joyful.’
Ramsay-Levi’s first collection, presented last September, drew rave reviews for its sense of ease and affirmed femininity. Graphic flower-printed dresses mixed with dressage-inspired silhouettes, camel tailoring, 1970s-infused slouchy trousers and woven leather boots. Her debut collection is available to purchase at a Selfridges pop-up in London, until 18 March. ‘I want to give women the opportunity to show their inner strength, not their power. That’s the personality of the woman I am drawn to.’
Left, Natacha Ramsay-Levi. Right, A velvet suit stamped with Chloé’s prancing horse motif
Claire Waight Keller
During her six-year tenure as creative director of Chloé, Clare Waight Keller redefined the bohemian, feminine aesthetics of the French maison with flair and considerable commercial success. So much so that, prior to her first Givenchy show last October, some even wondered whether she could adapt to the darker, sleeker look that was trademark of Hubert de Givenchy and, of course, her predecessor Riccardo Tisci. those who doubted her had clearly forgotten her past stints at Calvin Klein, Gucci, Pringle of Scotland and Ralph Lauren, where she designed menswear. a task she has taken on at Givenchy as well.
The brand’s Spring/Summer 2018 show included male models in skinny ensembles – a lot more glam, and a lot less streetwear-inspired, than Tisci’s. The silhouette was wide at the shoulders and tiny at the waist for both men and women. Functional bomber jackets, leather jeans and miniskirts were the key pieces for womenswear, with some concessions to fantasy made in eveningwear (the designer’s chiffon and lace dresses were the most critically acclaimed). Synergy between men’s and women’s collections is central to Waight Keller’s approach in her new position. as she tells us, ‘I really believe that there’s an importance to that dialogue. The idea of the couple is strongly rooted in the house. That’s something I want to carry forward. Today, if you think of the people who are the most influential in the world, they’re often power couples.’
Left, an outfit designed by Waiht Keller showcasing Givenchy’s perfect tailoring, such as jackets with strong shoulders contrasting with short hemlines. Right, Clare Waight Keller
Of all the Italian houses known for their glamazonian legacies, few are as bold as Roberto Cavalli. Which is why the choice of Englishman Paul Surridge as the new creative director came as such a surprise. Surridge is a Central Saint Martins graduate with an extensive CV, including stints at the menswear divisions of Calvin Klein (when the founder was still at the helm), Burberry, Jil Sander and Z Zegna. The Cavalli gig is his first move into womenswear. ‘Menswear is more in the smaller details and the function, whereas womenswear is in the occasion and more of an emotional approach,’ he says. ‘I like to think that my men’s background has enabled me to work deeper in the cut, finish and construction.’
Surridge’s Cavalli borrows menswear’s mathematical precision and obsession with details, without forgetting the sexiness that defined the Florentine brand in the first place. Surridge walks a thin line between heritage and renewal, but then again, he is a man who enjoys a challenge, ‘and ultimately, it’s Roberto Cavalli’s core values of beauty and quality that inspired me’.
His first collection still boasts the Cavalli essentials – zebra prints, fur, and revealing cut-outs – but these are combined with laser-sharp tailoring and a touch of androgyny, making them more accessible and current. ‘I’m dedicated to continuing to evolve a modern approach to sensuality while revisiting some of the central icons of the maison,’ explains Surridge.
Left, Paul Surridge. Right, Surridge has carefully updated Roberto Cavalli’s trademark zebra print, which now appears on a perfectly cut coat