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Paris Fashion Week S/S 2016: Midwestern Models of the Moment in Chloé’s Grand Palais

Imagine it: you spend your whole life on a sheep farm in West Branch, Iowa, and then one day you meet Jeff and Mary Clarke of Mother Model Management, who scoop you up and take you to Paris. The next thing you know you’re helping Chloé creative director Clare Waight Keller telegraph the dream of an ultra-elegant and super-sporty bohemian.

Chloe_HAZELAll runway photos: InDigital

That’s Hazel Crew’s story, as I heard it from the Clarkes themselves while we sat waiting for one of Paris Fashion Week’s biggest shows to begin. The Clarkes, who’ve made a 20-year career out of finding gorgeous talent in the heartland, were there that morning to see model-on-the-rise Grace Hartzel as well; they discovered her at a Cheesecake Factory.

Find out more about the Clarkes’ Midwestern Chloé muses—and see the colored pleats, girly gym pants and obsession-worthy handbags they wore for the spring collection.

“I was that lady who did fashion shows in the mall,” Mary told me. Okay, sure, but check this out: she’s now the lady who discovered and launched Ashton Kutcher and Karlie Kloss. God bless America, huh?

Chloe_HAZELGrace Hartzel

The Clarkes are based in St. Louis, which they say is the perfect place to meet the kinds of young women who are in demand today: strong, evocative characters with interesting lives and vivid personalities. The industry wants what’s real—they want who’s real. Above any one look, this is the “type” that  inspires designers and casting directors today.

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And really, the most successful models have always been women we want to know. Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Karen Elson. “What makes them so good is that they are so completely themselves,” said Mary. (Reminds me of meeting another emerging runway star, Emilie Evander, last season in this very same city.)

Eventually I looked down at the signed card that sat on each seat along the runway, and I couldn’t believe how perfectly this chance encounter fit with Chloé’s spring mission.

“This season’s collection is a tribute to girls named Kate, Chloe, Cecilia, Corinne, Rosemary, Emma, Courtney and many others who embody the liberty and the elegance of a perfectly mastered and excessively lived simplicity,” read the note from Waight Keller.

 

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And that’s precisely what paraded around the Grand Palais: luxurious and low-key off-the-shoulder silks, pale pastel caftans, frayed denim shorts and trouserlike track pants—racing stripes included. And, of course, a new set of sweetly detailed bags to take along.

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“With a spirit as fresh and colorful as ever, a natural expression of the pleasure we aim to get from life. From everything we do,” the note continued. “Staying true, staying what we are, moving forward. Everyday.”

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It certainly sounds like something Hazel and Grace and all the folks back home would be happy to be a part of.

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—Laura Cassidy