A world defined by lockdowns and curfews meant that Gabriela Hearst’s debut show as Chloé creative director in March was a digital one. This week, however, on the sun-dappled banks of the Seine, the Uruguayan-born designer — who shows her namesake brand in New York — presented the Chloé spring 2022 collection to a live crowd.
Later, Ms. Hearst talked about her key inspirations this season and why she uses her runway to highlight the craft work of nonprofit organizations.
What excited you most about unveiling this collection?
Probably being able to show our 250 guests — and the wider world — the creativity of the seven not-for-profit organizations we worked with this season. I have always felt motivated to use my platform as a designer to showcase the work of others, and our design studio worked with collectives on everything from garments and footwear to the stage and set. For example, the sliders were made in collaboration with Ocean Sole, which is based in Kenya, as is Mifuko, with whom we made the oversize woven basket bags. The knotted shell necklaces and harnesses were produced in Madagascar by Akanjo. To showcase the creativity of others really empowers me. I want to show off, through a program we are calling Chloé Craft, techniques that cannot be mimicked by machinery and only mastered by human hands.
You said this season was about love. How was that reflected?
Well, one way was the vivid color palette. I actually sent my guests tins of color pencils before the show because I love coloring and do it constantly; my notebooks are full of it! It gives me pleasure and I feel like it’s something anyone can do and share in as an experience.
But this season was also about how to make items that are produced in larger quantities more eco-conscious. The show started with a series of white looks, which looked simple from afar but if you go up close, are made from the most gorgeous textured silks and dangle with talismans. We sourced the charms from dead-stock jewelry from old Paris fashion houses. And upcycled fabrics from previous seasons have been shredded and macraméd into new garments. I love that we use old to make new.
You famously went into the Chloé job interview with a 92-page brochure on your vision for the brand, including sustainability goals. Are those progressing?
I was not subtle about how much I wanted that job! Or particularly insecure about my plans on how I could execute them if I got it. But yes, at root it’s about showing that volume driving products for luxury brands can have a lower impact. This season, 58 percent of our collection used lower-impact materials — so more recycling and sourcing from farms with a focus on soil health and animal welfare — compared to 40 percent for winter 2021. We continue to collect information constantly so we can make the right decisions about how to make our lines.
Are clients demanding more from you?
I’m not naïve. Very few people who buy luxury are driven purely by good intentions. Product must be absolutely beautiful, too. But in the last two years, it’s become clear that more of my clients do want to know how things are made and sourced. Maybe it’s because of the pandemic, though I think it’s also to do with the fact the effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent. It’s the No. 1 threat to our existence as a species.
People say to me that I come across as quite fearless when talking about this, but I am terrified. I have profound anxiety about where we may end up and the world we may leave for our children. But I am also a pragmatist and determined to keep pushing forward and looking for solutions.
How do you juggle two creative director roles, for both Chloé in Paris and your namesake brand in New York?
Well, I take genuine joy and satisfaction from the design process and am supported by amazing teams. Obviously this experience can be hard at times. It takes a physical toll and a lot of sacrifice to make sure you find some kind of balance, especially when it comes to family. But also, I wanted this. Badly. I am grateful for the opportunity. So I can’t complain for even one second because I wanted these things. It’s a dream to be doing what I’m doing.
This conversation, first aired on Instagram Live, has been edited and condensed.