You can spot a Chloé girl instantly by her patterned dress, sturdy boots, or monogram C bag. That’s a testament to the strength of Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s vision and the global relevance of her design signatures. Today, the Western fashion crowd traveled to Shanghai to take in the brand’s Resort 2020 show, which was staged on the rooftop of the Long Museum at sunset.
The decision to put on a show for its Resort collection, and to set it against the hazy skies of China’s bustling metropolis, was made more than a year ago. Business was the draw, with the luxury market bigger than booming throughout Asia, but the city is a good fit with Ramsay-Levi’s sensibilities. A lover of Chinese cinema, she had compiled backstage dozens of stills from her favorite movies by Jia Zhangke, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Zhang Yimou, Bi Gan, and Lou Yi, as a de facto moodboard, and was beaming over the fact that one of her favorite actresses, Shu Qi, would be sitting front row. (The soundtrack to Millennium Mambo, Qi’s breakout film, scored Ramsay-Levi’s runway-debut Chloé collection, in 2017.)
Another film, Three Times, by Hsiao-Hsien, informed Ramsay-Levi’s decision to explore China’s rich history, drawing on its empirical eras, its Art Deco period, and its contemporary buzz. The designer’s nods to Chinese culture were small but poignant, such as the side buttons on a floral dress that evoked a qipao, and two prominent flag-red looks. There were also tiny embroideries inspired by traditional Chinese handwork.
Ramsay-Levi’s sense of cool—the layering of skirts over pants, the sneakers with skirts, and the piles of golden jewelry—meshes well with the Shanghainese culture. Worn by a majority Chinese cast of local models, the clothing took on a lively new dimension; if Chloé has long been the ur-brand for Parisian je ne sais quoi, it proved it could also be that for Shanghai’s miao bu ke yanon the runway tonight.
But that’s enough about vibes. Not enough attention is paid to celebrating Ramsay-Levi’s skill as a designer. The dresses might be flippy and floaty, but Ramsay-Levi constructs them with the precision and rigor of a would-be couturier. Her best this season were the slips and smocks; they were as light as air—which is especially good for a hot Chinese summer—but still shapely. Voluminous, lacy skirts given structure by ribbon detailing also looked compelling paired with Ramsay-Levi’s tailoring. (This season’s slouchy trousers might be hard to pull off IRL, but they were convincing on the runway.) If you caught a new hint of sexiness in these looks, especially the finale number with its catty sandal, you’re on right track. A tough womanliness came through this season more than ever.