When Stella McCartney quit Chloé in the spring of 2001, the fashion world wondered how the label would cope with the loss of her celebrity. A good deal of her personal fame she's Beatle Paul's daughter, hangs out with people like Madonna and is a high-profile antifur campaigner had rubbed off on the French fashion house. Her successor and friend, Phoebe Philo, was regarded as a talented designer, but she was not exactly a household name. The fashion world loves nothing better than a catfight; speculation immediately began about a competition between the two women, and intensified when McCartney's solo debut proved a disaster. (Her subsequent collections won praise.) Philo's work for Chloé quickly wowed the fashion critics.
Now, on the eve of the label's 50th anniversary, Chloé's CEO Ralph Toledano insists he has no reason to regret parting with McCartney: "Celebrity is a marketing vehicle that appeared some years ago, and it will go as it came." But others aren't so sure. "Chloé's appeal was built around Stella McCartney her personality, her friends, her social circle," says Sagra de Rosen, a luxury-goods analyst at J.P. Morgan who covers the Richemont Group, which owns Chloé, along with Cartier, Dunhill and other brands. "After she left, it lost a bit of that appeal."
McCartney's departure allows the label to expand into areas previously barred by her animal-rights concerns particularly in leather goods. Chloé's new London store shows how much the company is enjoying that freedom. The lower ground floor is given over to Philo's new collection of leather shoes. The bags upstairs are already selling well. A new bracelet bag that slides over the wrist is priced between around $550 and $1,000, but that didn't stop 28 of them being sold in the first two days. The new store a mix of marble and plywood is the first of a design concept that Toledano hopes to roll out in Monaco, Hong Kong and Milan over the next two years. And some minor celebs Pete Tong, Bella Freud were at last week's opening party.
Ahead of His Time
The German architect Mies van der Rohe died in 1969, but his influence can be seen on office towers from Chicago to Shanghai. His early work is examined in "Mies van der Rohe 1905-1938," which runs until March 2 at London's Whitechapel Art Gallery. The show features models, photographs, plans and original drawings. Mies, as he's widely known, had the misfortune to be working in Berlin when the Nazis came to power. In 1938 he moved to the U.S. in search of more open-minded patrons. He found a niche at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, heading the architecture department for 20 years. Mies was the first to conceive of a steel-and-glass skyscraper. Designed in the '20s, his glittering towers weren't built until the '50s New York's Seagram Building was finished in 1958. Many of his one-story houses that let the outside in were built in the '30s, but look very '50s to us, with their glass walls and steel-and-leather furniture. Andrea Tarsia, the show's curator, says the Mies look became the "dominant architectural language in the '50s." His designs still speak to us today. By Lucy Fisher
London At Last
France's grande dame of fashion has descended on London. The Sonia Rykiel store on Brook Street opened last week, 34 years after her first Paris shop. That, she says, is the price you pay for remaining an independent, family-run company; had she sold out there might now be Rykiel stores in all the major capitals. But going it alone suits the woman who opened her first shop to indulge a hobby. Now, she's known around the world for her exceptional knitwear and detailing. Rykiel uses stripes, rhinestones, even velour, to create her style. While never intending to make such a mark, she's thrilled to be still in business and influential today. "I'm more enthusiastic now because I know what I'm doing," she says. "I know what kind of woman I dress." Meanwhile copies of her earliest creations are making a catwalk comeback as part of the current craze for vintage. "When I began to work, I was so free, I knew just what I wanted to do," Rykiel reminisces. "I never thought that one day those clothes would be vintage, that everyone would want them." By Taryn Bickley