After four years as creative director, Natacha Ramsay-Levi is leaving Chloé.
In a statement, Ramsay-Levi said: “I have had the great privilege, with the support of Chloé’s teams, to express my own creativity, while refocusing the maison on Gaby Aghion’s commitment to intellectual freedom and to fundamental values that unite all of us. I want to thank Chloé for this opportunity. I am equally thankful for their support in my decision to leave my position.”
Ramsay-Levi started her fashion career at Balenciaga in 2002, where she became the key design deputy of Nicolas Ghesquière. When he left Balenciaga in 2013, Ramsay-Levi went on to consult for several brands, including Hermès and Acne Studios, before rejoining Ghesquière at Vuitton. She joined Chloé in April 2017 from Louis Vuitton, where she had been creative director of women’s ready-to-wear since 2013.
“I want to create fashion that enhances the personality of the woman who wears it, fashion that creates a character and an attitude, without ever imposing a ‘look’” said Ramsay-Levi when she took the helm at Chloé.
And indeed her designs for the house were thoughtful and intricate, often featuring academic references and collaborations with contemporary artists.
Her autumn 2020 show in February, for example, featured artworks by Marion Verboom, while her spring 2021 fashion show incorporated dresses and t-shirts emblazoned with words by the late American artist Corita Kent. A Catholic nun, Kent won acclaim in the Sixties for her slogan-based works about poverty, racism and war, and her messages of peace and social justice.
Ramsay-Levi brought an edgier aesthetic to the house’s feminine, boho codes via intricate tailoring, unusual styling details and complex constructions. And yet, while her collections were celebrated by fashion critics, they were often lacking in more commercial items.
Accessories and leather goods currently account for 60 per cent of sales at the Richemont-owned brand, and yet during her time at the helm Ramsay-Levi failed to deliver a smash hit ‘It’ handbag.
The Chloé C bag she launched as part of her Resort 2019 collection was an instant fashion girl favourite and yet with a price tag over £1000, it faced stiff competition from more budget-friendly Instagram brands like Wandler and Staud, and the handbags on offer from LVMH and Kering-owned superbrands like Prada, Fendi and Louis Vuitton.
Former Maison Margiela CEO Riccardo Bellini replaced Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye as Chloé chief executive in October last year and has been tasked with developing and expanding the brand’s leather goods offering. There are rumours of frictions between the pair.
“Natacha has made a great contribution to Chloé, bringing at its center the intelligence and sense of mission that were defined by our founder. She is an important member of that proud tradition of women who have designed at Chloé. Her creative leadership and her vision have written a powerful and meaningful chapter in our story,” said Bellini in a statement.
Since Stella McCartney replaced Karl Lagerfeld at the helm at Chloé in 1997 (she spent four years as creative director), the French house - founded by Gaby Aghion in 1952 - has had a run of impressive female designers who have all go on to become industry stars after designing for the Chloé girl. McCartney launched her eponymous label when she left, Phoebe Philo went on to create an era-defining aesthetic at the helm of Celine and Claire Waight Keller, Ramsay-Levi’s predecessor, went on to design Meghan Markle’s wedding dress as head of Givenchy.
While Ramsay-Levi may have struggled to catapult Chloé into the fold of the superbrands, there’s every likelihood that the super talented Parisian designer will go on to have a glittering career at another label.
“Over the last months of health, social, and economic turmoil, I have thought about the changes I want to see in our industry and how to better align them with my own creative, intellectual, and emotional values,” said Ramsay-Levi. “It is this reflection that makes me consider my future differently and desire to pursue new opportunities.”