Words: Chloe King, Interview: Kristom Parson.
Suppose you have ever caught a glimpse of Chloe King breezing through the streets during global fashion weeks or dispatching from her home office over Instagram at present. In either case, you may also have found yourself awed by the sheer sorcery with which she consistently achieves such extraordinary ensembles. Her masterfully concocted looks are served up in the most pleasing form of chaos, a marriage of mixed media prints, colors, and unexpected silhouettes often accompanied by a red-lipped smile. In her decade and beyond career, she has held coveted posts at brands and luxury retailers, Tibi, The Webster, and Bergdorf Goodman, where she is currently Head of Digital and works directly with the legendary Linda Fargo.
Beyond her iconic style, Chloe comes off as a straight shooter; she’s sharp, has jokes, relentless drive, and a heart the size of New York City. Described by her mother at an early age as a contrarian, it became a working title she wholeheartedly embraced from then on. Knowing oneself so well that it reflects outwardly in such an unmistakable way to others requires a supreme level of confidence and self-awareness. As more clearly understood now, Chloe’s determination to seek and be “other” is precisely what shaped this intriguing persona that has held our attention in the years following her career.
While hard work and adaptability made the process of navigating an ever-changing industry more manageable and successful, it is her appetite for curiosity and fearlessness that prepared her for social justice advocacy with matched tenacity when the time came. A sociology major in college who studied systemic race and gender bias, bearing witness to American social structures that continue to fracture and crumble following the 2016 election, she decided that life, as usual, would not go on while others’ lives and liberties are at stake. Recognized by colleagues and peers as one who is unafraid of talking about race, she makes it clear where she stands on injustices in the industry and beyond, affirming that “Any reason you have to not get involved in social justice (time, money, expertise) is an excuse. There are a million opportunities to effect change over the course of one day – including within yourself. Read a lot. Listen to the experts with lived experience. Don’t be defensive. Sit in your discomfort. And the biggest: white people are responsible for every oppressive system in this country, so it is up to white people to create solutions.”
While we are grateful to benefit from her wildly creative innovations, the countless looks so universally embraced by the world of fashion, for us, it is the mindful disobedience behind this superficial layer that we find most captivating. And perhaps it is that Chloe King’s signature style is itself a sort of armor, not worn as protection from the outside world, but rather as a reminder of who she is and always has been; a champion for independent thought, and above all, the good.
DC: Can you share with us a bit about your journey from early beginnings and interests to where you have arrived now?
CK: I grew up outside of Boston and was always interested in fashion, but went to a liberal arts school, so I received a traditional education. I never thought I was “qualified” to professionally participate in the Fashion universe. After playing soccer my whole life, my first job was in sports marketing, but to be honest, I spent most of my day reading the OG fashion blogs (this was 2010!). I realized if you have to be stuck at work all day, I’d rather be doing something I loved, so I moved to New York City to see if I could work in fashion. I got an unpaid internship at a brand while working nights at a restaurant, but was so happy I took the risk! I was soon hired full time, and then years later… here I am.
DC: Are there specific people in your life – family members, artists, musicians, thinkers, or otherwise – who have played a significant role in shaping who you are?
CK: My family for sure – there are six of us, and we are all quite close. They are each brilliant in their own ways and have been an essential support system for me as I navigate my life.Additionally, I am always drawn to risk-takers, art that feels a little unexpected or off. Strong female voices inspire me, women who challenge you to think a little differently: Chimamanda Adichie, Georgia O’Keeffe, Yayoi Kusama, Fran Leibowitz.
DC: Your style has such a big personality, and it is so refreshing. We are clearly huge fans over here – what does it mean to you? Where do you find inspiration?
CK: Thank you!! Style to me is very personal – if it doesn’t feel “me,” then I generally change. My mom always said I was a “contrarian” growing up, usually wanting the opposite. I think this has influenced how I get dressed – unexpected contrasts and combinations… something always a little bit “off.” I also love to shop vintage, which is a constant source of inspiration.
DC: You have spent years working with a suite of incredibly talented creatives at iconic brands and retailers like Tibi, The Webster, and Bergdorf Goodman. Can you share a few moments that have had the most significant impact on you professionally?
CK: One of the best and most humbling moments was a shoot we did at Bergdorf Goodman to launch Linda Fargo’s shop, ‘Linda’s.’ She invited some of her industry peers and collaborators to have tea and just talk fashion, and I was honored to be included. Listening to iconic women like Linda, Patricia Field, and Betty Halbreich trade stories about their lives and work was something I’ll remember forever.
DC: Is there a specific moment you can recall where you feel you really came into your own?
CK: Moving to New York, for sure. If there is ever a city to let our freak flag fly, it’s New York. Eccentricity is encouraged!
DC: You have been a loud voice championing social justice, women’s rights, voting, racial equity, and inclusion. As an ally and advocate for change, where did you start?
CK: I was a sociology major in college, studying how race and gender bias are baked into American infrastructure and experience from sports to medicine. But when did I start being actionable? I think the 2016 election. I realized what a lazy participant I had been in politics and how that white privilege had contributed to one of the most shameful periods of recent American history.
DC: What have been some of your biggest key learnings?
CK: Any reason you have to not get involved in social justice (time, money, expertise) is an excuse. There are a million opportunities to effect change over the course of one day – including within yourself. Read a lot. Listen to the experts with lived experience. Don’t be defensive. Sit in your discomfort. And the biggest: white people are responsible for every oppressive system in this country, so it is up to white people to create solutions.
DC: You are very vocal about inclusion in the workplace and call out injustices demanding action regularly, and basically make it foolproof for others to follow suit – often sharing information and offering guidance if needed. What has been your biggest takeaway from this advocacy?
CK: We spend a lotttt of time at work. And I, for one, don’t want to spend that time in a place that perpetuates systemic racism.
DC: What have you learned about yourself in the process?
CK: I can have a quick temper. When there are literal lives at stake with issues as urgent as police brutality, I get frustrated when people try to “play devil’s advocate.”
DC: What do you prioritize most when sharing your point of view?
CK: Not centering myself. Amplifying people who are authorities in their field or who have experienced that struggle first hand. Believe that experience!
DC: There are a few excerpts from Timothy Snyder’s book, On Tyranny, that came to mind after witnessing so many like yourself within and outside our industry use their platforms to drive awareness to issues and call for change: “Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do. […] In the politics of the everyday, our words, and gestures, or their absence, count very much.” Do you feel everyone can influence those around them – no matter how big or small the audience?
CK: Absolutely! And even though it can be painful or awkward, I think you are more likely to shift perspective and make real change in the minds of people closest to you.
DC: What are some of the causes you support? Which do you feel are the most critically in need?
CK: Black Lives Matter, Fair Fight Action, Know Your Rights Camp, The Loveland Foundation, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, ACLU.
DC: What piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to pursue a career in the industry right now?
CK: Come with ideas! Big ones. The industry is in an extremely challenging position right now, and we need every innovator we can get.
DC: What is coming up next for you?
CK: Who knows? 2020 taught me that you can’t always plan. I miss traveling deeply and have a long list of dream destinations for my first trip post-pandemic – and, of course, taking suggestions.