The golden girls sat front row — hair long, hemlines high, sweet faces cocked to see the Chloé models walk the cork runway. Cork? Ah! It must be another Boho 1970s collection from designer Clare Waight Keller.
But instead, out came clothes for a fresh era of sporty innocence: sweaters atop floor-sweeping skirts; a sweatshirt and pants worn with Parisian elegance; brief one-shoulder dresses and flat bags dangling on a chain. Then, lace for an elegant all-in-one outfit. It added up to a streamlined prettiness that seemed a perfect fit with the young women in the audience.
Who were they? Young British singer Flo Morrissey and model and actress Dylan Penn (daughter of Sean Penn and Robin Wright), French actress Lola Le Lann and a coterie of smart international bloggers.
"It's about an innocence that is still very sophisticated — the opportunity that comes with youth," said the designer, referring to a fashion take on sportswear. She also called details in the collection "tangy and sweet colours together" and "the illusion of nonchalance".
Clare was standing backstage by her mood board wearing a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans frayed at the ankles. She should have been revelling in the fact that this was by far the best show she has done for Chloé, as though after four years at the design helm she had finally hit the target.
The show was different because although the designer has tried a hippie-de-luxe, carefree style before, elements of it here were far more assured. For example, an intricate, Paisley-style pattern was in ink blue and white only, not wild in colour: while the sporty racing stripes on tracksuit pants were matched by a graceful ribbon bow at the shoulder.
With such small gestures, Clare made a world of difference from dressing retro to seeming ready-to-go. Perhaps the smartest move was to give volume to lace, so that the clothes seemed free, rather than body conscious. Add vivid colours like tart lemon, or subdue such shades with black, and there was another round of sophistication — ending with a long swish of chiffon in vertical lines of green, yellow and red.
Injecting a sense of global youth culture into what was a cute, intrinsically French label has been a slow process for Waight Keller. But for summer 2016, the Chloé girl is ready to roll.