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It’s hard to believe that a world-renowned brand like Chloe – currently headed up by British designer Phoebe Philo – should have its origins in six cotton poplin dresses. But from humble cotton acorns, big fashion oaks grow. Egyptian-born Gaby Aghion first arrived in Paris in 1945 and created Chloe in 1952, producing a small collection of dresses; Maria Callas and Grace Kelly were early fans.

A young Karl Lagerfeld (with only a year’s design experience at Jean Patou under his belt) was appointed house designer in 1966. During the late ’60s and ’70s, the label blossomed. Legend has it that heiress Christina Onassis bought 36 blouses in one visit to the boutique.

The ’80s were a time of upheaval for Chloe, with Lagerfeld decamping to Chanel (1983) and the luxury goods company Richemont Group buying out Aghion (1985).

Following Lagerfeld’s departure, Martine Sitbon took over, bringing her trademark graphic sensibilities to Chloe. Although Lagerfeld returned once again to the house in 1992, it was Stella McCartney in 1997 who next transformed the brand’s fortunes. McCartney’s fusion of a London rock’n’roll vibe with Chloe’s chic Parisian heritage revived the brand for a new generation. When McCartney’s celebrity friends – Kate Moss, Madonna, Cameron Diaz – began to wear the clothes, the label’s status was further established.

McCartney’s friend Phoebe Philo, who had worked closely with Stella throughout her four-year reign, has further improved on the brand’s youthful and feminine reputation – delicate, vintage-style camisole tops and sexy trousers are signatures – since taking over in 2001. Philo, who was born in Paris in 1973 and graduated from Central Saint Martins, also initiated a diffusion line, See. She picked up a British Designer of the Year prize in 2004 and is now at the helm of a bona fide success story.

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