Ready To Wear: More musical chairs for the industry's top designers

 

The game of designer musical chairs that is affecting the fashion industry gathered momentum last week when it was announced that Hannah MacGibbon had parted company with the French fashion house Chloé.

MacGibbon has worked for the label for almost 10 years, becoming creative director in 2008.

For the autumn/winter 2010 season, this designer – together with Phoebe Philo, who'd recently debuted at Céline, and Stella McCartney – took the Paris catwalks by storm, albeit quiet storm, and was duly credited with spearheading a return to real clothes (such things are relative) for real women (ditto). For anyone up on their fashion family trees, the connection between the three designers is obvious: McCartney was creative director of Chloé between 1997 and 2000 with Philo as part of her team; Philo took over from McCartney with MacGibbon as part of her team.

Although all three designers have by now developed entirely individual aesthetics, they have been grouped together under the banner of "new minimalism", which, if only for the fact that theirs is no-frills fashion for the time being at least, seems not unreasonable. What's more, these are clothes created by women, for women, as a pragmatic (read "womanly"?) reaction to economic crisis, or at least that's how those who like their clothing to have a cultural context see it.

Unusually, all of the above is largely true. Philo's Céline is the more fashionable tag; McCartney's the most accessible; and MacGibbon serves up a look that is as elegant and lovely in its own right as it is subtly indebted to Chloé's 1970s heyday, when it was designed by Karl Lagerfeld.

And for that she should be respected. There's a lightness of touch and balance required to create fashion that is feminine but never overly girlish, light but not stupidly light-hearted, after all.

The designer is now off "to pursue new projects", apparently, which seems rather vague, while another woman, Clare Waight Keller, who has helped to lift British heritage label Pringle out of Alan Partridge territory and establish it as an international brand, will step into her shoes.

Any real women in search of real clothes are unlikely to be overly disappointed, but MacGibbon will be missed for her refined and sensitive touch nonetheless.

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