This year’s rare lull in designer musical chairs has officially come to an end. On Thursday, Natacha Ramsay-Levi made an all-caps announcement on Instagram: “TODAY I AM STEPPING DOWN AS CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT CHLOÉ,” a role she took on in 2017. “Over the last months of health, social, and economic turmoil, I have thought about the changes I want to see in our industry and how to better align them with my own creative, intellectual, and emotional values,” Ramsay-Levi added in a press release. “It is this reflection that makes me consider my future differently and desire to pursue new opportunities.”
For up-and-coming designers, Ramsay-Levi’s departure opens up one of the industry’s most coveted slots. When the house’s founder, Gaby Aghion, recruited a then-unknown Karl Lagerfeld in the 1960s, it established a pattern of star-making. He was succeeded by a then 25-year-old Stella McCartney, who passed on the role to the beloved former Céline designer Phoebe Philo in 2001. Ramsay-Levi’s predecessor, Clare Waight Keller left for Givenchy where she famously designed Meghan Markle’s wedding dress.
Whereas Keller’s Chloé was particularly popular among celebrities, Ramsay-Levi made a point to dress women for the everyday. Tellingly, she cast a model slightly outside of the waifish runway norm to open her debut runway show in 2017. “What me walking for Natacha represented was a woman designer really embracing a young woman who doesn’t look like she has the body of a 14-year-old boy,” the model, Sophie Koella, told W at the time. “It was about taking, I think, a strong feminist [stance].”
Nicolas Ghesquière had a heavy influence on Ramsay-Levi’s proudly “bohemian” vision, which was full of exaggerated silhouettes, unexpected color combinations, and clashing prints. She worked with the French designer extensively, for 11 years at Balenciaga and three-and-a-half at his current house, Louis Vuitton. Where she’ll take that vision next remains to be seen. As for her successor, Chloé doesn’t seem to be in a rush. The house has simply promised an announcement “in due course.”