10th May 2019
I’ve grown into, rather than out of, being a groupie. Forget Bros and Take That – the first time I became a fan girl was circa 2010 (at the tender age of 36), when Phoebe Philo captured my heart with her understated androgyny. In recent years, it’s been Victoria Beckham for her ability to create directional separates season after season and wear them with such easy sophistication. But now there’s a new girl in town, and I think I want to be in her gang…
Natacha Ramsay-Levi has been creative director of Parisian fashion house Chloé since 2017, and like Philo when she designed for Céline, is becoming as much an object of interest as the collections she creates. I can’t remember whether I loved Philo or Céline first, Victoria Beckham the brand before or after the woman, but certainly my fascination with Ramsay-Levi is heightening my interest not just in Chloé, but in the “hippie modernism” she speaks of. I’ve always believed that designers are not the story, their clothes are, but like every rule, there are exceptions.
This hippie modernism trend has also been coined “the city hippie” because of Ramsay-Levi’s desire to “take the symbols of that thinking and bring them into the city”. This appeals to me hugely, and will to many other women who don’t want to spend their summers in tie-dyed cheesecloth dresses, and who’ve never embraced either the psychology or aesthetics of festival culture. She’s taking a trend that has always felt alien to me (when I think of hippies, I imagine long-haired men and women haphazardly draped in crochet, colourful prints and headscarves; I like clean lines and contemporary accessories) and giving it context. Instead of drawing on those hackneyed Woodstock references of flower power in muddy fields, Ramsay-Levi is simply saying there’s a little bit of the wanderer in every woman who heads off on holiday and comes back with some quirky keepsakes.
I admit I won’t be buying into the long tasselled earrings, rope belts or thick gold ankle cuffs; I played around with these items in the early noughties when Sienna Miller brought boho chic into every fashion-loving woman’s mind’s eye, and before I realised there was nothing remotely bohemian about me; not my look nor my attitude. But Chloé’s scarf-print midi skirts, longline blazers (I can be bohemian and wear a structured blazer?), balloon-sleeved blouses and body-skimming maxi dresses (very Victoria Beckham) spoke to me and my idea of city summer chic. The calf-length split-front trousers with oversized ribbed sweater was the collection’s standout outfit in my mind, and if I had the body to support the drape of an exquisite sand-coloured shirt dress, I’d be obsessing over that too. There’s nothing crusty or crumpled-looking about Chloé’s city hippie. She’s the relaxed but not gauche, smart but not stiff woman we all want to be in the easy breezy days of summer.
Ramsay-Levi also served up the perfect summer LBD; midi-length, one-shoulder, fluid and flattering. It suggested the artsiness of bohemianism and the elegance of ancient Greece, but it had a polish that transcended traditional hippie chic. Throw the biscuit coloured blazer over it and you’re as fit for a work trip as a road trip.
At Loewe, JW Anderson had similar ideas, describing his collection as “free” and “sensual”. These boho vibes were manifested in fit-and-flare patchwork dresses that were grown-up rather than grungy, oversized tactile cable-knit sweaters that looked sexy rather than circusy, and giant fully fringed bags that made this slightly tired old micro-trend feel utterly cool and covetable. The crossbody crochet floral bag could have felt twee, but paired with a pink tailored jacket, masculine shirt and varsity-inspired sweater, it looked fresh and made the entire outfit feel unexpected and modern.
At his eponymous label too, Anderson said he wanted “something a little more bohemian, a bit of a celebration of fashion through texture, something that had a kind of fluidity to it, a patchwork somehow”. American designer Tory Burch, meanwhile, built her spring/summer collection around the theme of wanderlust. These are the buzzwords of the season. And why are designers so determined to deliver another summer of love? Ramsay-Levi says it’s because of the sense of community and environment the hippie movement evokes; important ideas in a world that at times seems to be imploding. Maybe it’s also the notion of escapism associated with the 1970s subculture that makes it such an inviting reference point in the days of Trump and Brexit.
Either way, a free-spiritedness found its way through even the unlikeliest of this season’s collections. The signature minimalism and austereness of Jil Sander was unexpectedly punctuated with crocheted separates in a mix of beautifully tactile, blanket-soft shades. Meanwhile, the traditionally ladylike vibe at Carolina Herrera’s show was made more casual and youthful by new creative director Wes Gordon’s penchant for mini skirts and cropped tops. A shiny green silk maxi skirt and shirt combination with blouson sleeves and painterly floral print, in particular, hit just the right balance between retro and modern, while the knee-high suede boots with botanical motifs were the overriding winner, injecting hippie with the house’s characteristic haute.
Maybe this trend is more haute hippie than city hippie then, as designers have really taken festival fashion and made it front-row-worthy. Bring on the summer of love, I say.
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