Hearst was drawn to Chloé because it has an aesthetic she understood. “It was natural to my vocabulary,” she said, joking that the job had to go to her because she shares a name with the label’s founder, Gaby Aghion.
On a more serious note, the designer said she was motivated by the opportunity to implement the research and development she and her team at Gabriela Hearst had been carrying out over the years. Could she scale it up at the larger, more established house, she wondered? The answer appears to be: yes.
Hearst has created three collections for Chloé since taking the creative reins last year. Her first designs were produced in two months, an extremely tight turnaround. The Autumn-Winter 2021 collection, which was shown in March this year, included a collaboration with Sheltersuit Foundation
, a non-profit organization that makes outerwear for homeless people. Transforming
from a duffel bag to a waterproof jacket then to sleeping bag in a few zips, the charity’s namesake Sheltersuits are made from recycled and deadstock materials. Hearst invited founder Bas Trimmer to the house’s atelier to make a backpack using a similar ethos and some of Chloé’s deadstock materials. The label then announced that for each backpack sold, it would make two sheltersuits for those in need.As for the rest of the collection, Chloé issued a statement claiming that it “can be considered to have four times more lower impact materials compared to last year.” Polyester and viscose were eliminated, recycled or reused, the denim was organic and vintage bags were repurposed. “New isn’t always better,” read a statement from Hearst, w
Her third and most recent collection for the label came with an announcement that more items than ever before would be handmade by independent artisans under a new sub brand, Chloé Craft.
“While Chloé Craft is innately low impact, the challenge is to find ways of making the items produced in larger quantities more eco-conscious,” read a statement which also detailed how staples such as the Tote bag and Nama sneakers (which sell at comparatively higher quantities) had been improved to use lower impact materials.
The outdoor show was staged along the Seine river in Paris, and guest’s seats were made of bricks by a French organization called Les Bâtisseuses
(The Builders), which teaches ecological construction skills to women refugees.
Hearst stands out in an industry rife with tokenism and “greenwashing.” Her motivations run deep and they are personal. Regardless of her position in the fashion industry, she’s coming at the issue as “a human being, as a mother that is worried about my children and other people’s children,” she said.
Several years ago, a trip with a British charity, Save the Children, to northeast Kenya gave Hearst a first-hand view of the human toll of the climate crisis. Severe drought in 2017
had left the people she met desolate. It’s experiences like these, she said, that motivate her to use her platform to take action. “I see too clearly what the outcome is, if we don’t act, and I can’t turn a blind eye to it.”
ho is simply referred to as “Gabi” in press materials.
Last month, Chloé announced it has officially achieved B Corporation status, a rigorous certification process that assesses a business’ social and environmental impact — a first for the luxury fashion industry (though Hearst hopes not the last).
The designer acknowledges that, despite her and her team’s efforts, there is a lot more work to do. But, Hearst said, time is running out and it’s not the moment for perfectionism. “I’m of the belief system that everyone is nervous about doing things perfectly, but… we have to go with ‘good enough.’ You have to be able to say, ‘We’re not perfect, but we’re freaking trying.’
“We’re all trying to find a way to do business in a new economy, and if you’re not trying to do this, you’re going to be left out.”
Days later in Glasgow, Hearst, flanked by Daniel Humm and Dustin Yellin, told a small audience of COP26 delegates
, “it will be the artists and scientists that get us out of this, not the politicians.”
“It’s going to take ingenuity to believe something can happen.”