Behind the scenes with Chloe comme Parris at LGFW
It's 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, three hours before sisters Chloe and Parris Gordon are slated to present the third collection of their much-lauded line Chloe comme Parris. The girls are anxious, but calm and collected as usual. They're easygoing, and young (not even a quarter century old), but you'd never guess it by looking at their work. I mean, the girls look their age, but carry themselves with seriousness and passion not found in many other young designers emerging out of Toronto. They've worked hard to build their brand as a business first, and a buzz second.
In August, I spent another afternoon - brighter, and warmer - with the pair talking about the industry and being fresh out of school and the pressures of having your first two lines do exceedingly well with positive press and very little promotional effort. The Gordon sisters were also busy completing production on the samples for their spring/summer 2012 line that's showing at LGFW, created, in part, with prints and inspiration from their mother, an artist herself.
Underneath the tents, in front of Manchu Wok of all places, I catch Parris for a split second before the actual prep work beings. At 21, she's the youngest of the two and has just officially returned from Halifax where the pair spent four years studying at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. Parris focuses on jewellery, Chloe on garments.
But it's very a much a team effort with family ties. In an oversized denim shirt (a uniform of sorts), Parris is focused on one thing: transforming LGFW's studio space into a venue all its own for the highly-anticipated show that kicks off night two. "Sometimes, it feels like people expect so much, and you've got to block all that out," she tells me. "We've got a show to put on of a collection we love, and clothing to sell - that's what matters."
T-minus 90 minutes to show time, the prep work becomes dizzying; models to co-ordinate, music to cue, at least one run-through is necessary. They're also hanging artwork (by mother Gordon) and lighting it just right, with a tapestry-like catwalk that's interesting in a way that anything Jay Manuel does with his shows isn't.
The collection itself is what anyone would hope for from a label that has the potential to go international in appeal: it's an evolution. In prints produced with mom, the sisters showed hints at a '90s influence: power pants with deep, over-sized pockets, past-the-wrist sleeves on sweaters and generous fits that look fine without looking sloppy.
There was a new direction in metalwork on Parris' part, adding to the way pieces work with the jewellery itself, as evidenced by body-wrapped pearl strands contrasted by big brass buttons and buckles along the arm, mixed with their usual leather fare, on the wrist or accented on the hip of a skirt. Some of it's even detectable.
For CCP, spring/summer is about intelligent dressing, aimed at expanding the line to include all women, yet still very aware of the idea that the "CCP girl" is young and growing herself, much like the sisters.
Among the caped tank tops, raw silks, and maxi dresses, many pieces - or at least the best ones - attempted to channel the art-is-fashion-because-you-live-your-life-in-it vibe. But with the stronger, grown-up evolution of the label, the girls - and women - who decide to buy this collection will really make or break the sisters. I have complete faith we'll see them again - and again. And again.
Photos by Natalie Castellino and Jesse Milns.
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