1921–27, September 2014
Gabrielle Aghion was a French fashion designer and the founder of the French fashion house Chloé. She is said to have coined the phrase "prêt-à-porter."
The Greek-Italian daughter of a wealthy cigarette manufacturer, Gaby Aghion was born Gabrielle Hanoka in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1921, the youngest of seven children, and received a French-style education. Her mother had a strong affinity for the Paris look, hiring a seamstress to replicate designs from Parisian fashion magazines, and Gaby made her first visit to the city as an 18-year-old student.
Moving to Paris with her childhood sweetheart at 24, Raymond Aghion, she decided to turn her passion for Parisian style into her career. Gaby decided to name her brand after one of her close friends, Chloé Huysmans, as she was thinking that her own name reminded a fortuneteller. The brand became in the 70’s one of the important fashion names and created the luxury prêt-à-porter where clients were Brigitte Bardot, Maria Callas, Jackie Kennedy or Grace Kelly. Karl Lagerfeld was one of the few male artistic directors of the house hired by Aghion in 1965 and left 20 years later, in 1992, for Chanel.
Crucially, the Gaby Aghion of 1952 was a sporty, freethinking, independent spirit. Gaby wanted something different for herself and her fellow emancipated women. Something softer, lighter, freer, but still exquisitely made. Shaking the stiffness out of luxury clothing as it was then, she was an early pioneer of the concept of ready-to-wear – a happy harmony between old school stuffy couture and affordable but clunky seamstress-made copies. The first Chloe collection consisted of six simple dresses in flattering shapes, made up of beautiful fabrics. She set up design and production in a room above her flat, found someone to run the business side of things and held her first show at a breakfast at Café de Flore, the hangout of choice for her intellectual social set. And voila, success followed.
Gaby Aghion passed away in 2014 at the age of 93, and is survived by her son, Philippe Aghion, a prominent French economist.