Photographer: Hugues Laurent
Stylist: Mari David
The Best of Times
“I’ve had the best of every decade,” says Clare Waight Keller, who has been the creative director of Chloé for nearly four years. “I joined Calvin Klein in the ’90s, just after he signed Kate Moss and Marky Mark to do those ad campaigns. Then I went to Ralph Lauren to start up the Purple men’s label. New York in the 1990s was so raw, and I lived in the dodgy bits, like Hell’s Kitchen.” In 1999, newly married to Philip Keller, an architect, she moved back to her native England for a job at Gucci. “I so enjoyed it. Tom Ford was still really involved, and he’s a world unto himself.” Now, the Waight Keller family—which includes twins Charlotte and Amelia, 12, and Harrison, 3—fills an elegant apartment near the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. The change of scenery, she says, has changed her outlook. “The French have such personal style and really stick with it. As a result, I’ve become more edited, more focused.” That said, the Chloé girl shows not a little British insouciance: “Boys’ pants with a T-shirt and an amazing coat; sneakers with a long skirt,” says Waight Keller of the aesthetic under her reign. She adds Gallic flair with broderie anglaise, voluminous silhouettes, and “that French concept of beauty: the disheveled hair, no makeup.” It’s a look, it must be said, that she carries off rather well herself.
Waight Keller’s twins are mini-Clares in the making, with long ponytails and precise school uniforms of pale blue blouses teamed with navy skirts. The studio and home, says their mother, are clearly delineated. “While the kids are at school, I’m flat-out at work.” She is responsible for eight women’s collections a year and oversees everything from eyewear to accessories to children’s wear. “But I come home and work vanishes as soon as I hit the door. Unless there’s something really urgent and pressing, there’s so much going on here that work isn’t in my head. I think that’s what’s really grounding about having a family: You don’t let the crazy fashion world take you over.” Every Saturday, she and the girls head to the Bois de Boulogne, Paris’s sprawling park, to play tennis on courts by the lake. “It’s the only exercise I do, but it’s so fresh when we get there in the morning,” she says. What does she wear? “Old sweats. I’d die if a fashion person appeared.”
The Waight Keller home is a trove of chic vintage finds: 1960s velveteen chairs from Palm Springs; brass and agate lamps; a curvaceous Italian armchair from the Clignancourt flea market reupholstered in black and white houndstooth; a distinctive Goyard notebook on an old wooden desk. “I love seeking things out,” she says. “Every few months we go to the flea market in Brussels.” Their most recent purchase was the steel–and–black lacquer coffee table that now sits in the living room. On the drawing room wall is a photograph by Ryan McGinley of a woman’s bent knees with a pubic mound at one end and a marmoset at the other. Waight Keller worked with the artist on two campaigns while she was the creative director of Pringle, from 2005 to 2011. “There’s a slightly strange, surreal quality to his work,” she says, “especially the night photography. I love the fact that he uses nature in such a poetic way.” But it’s the shoes that fill the bedroom fireplace, the sunglasses lined up on its mantel, and the mountain of coats slung across an all-but-invisible sofa in the study that broadcast her day job. “I’m obsessed with coats. This coral one is a Guy Laroche from the early ’60s. This is a ’70s mink; a ’70s shaggy knit blouson; the cream one is Chloé from this season,” she says, picking them off one by one. Hidden in a wardrobe are 40-some more. “Philip thinks the rail will break any day now.”