Carolina Herrera took her final bow Monday night with the elegance and self-possession that have defined her 37-year career. One of the few designers of her generation to accede to succession — Wes Gordon, her understudy for the past few seasons, will take over as of the fall show — she leaves a legacy of glamour and polish that the new generation of luxury consumer has found little use for, in the hands of one of their peers.
The show opened and closed in tribute to Mrs. Herrera, as she has been known to her rank and file. It began with an ode to her tidy daytime uniform of pristine white shirts and black bottoms, and ended with a parade of her once idiosyncratic, now classic evening style — white shirt, belt, sweeping silk faille ballskirt — that went beyond the spectrum of the rainbow.
The proceedings were tender and touching, conducted with the unimpeachable grace that defines Herrera’s public life and brand. No bigger testament to that came than the collection itself. Intro and exit aside, it played more as a hello to Gordon than a goodbye to Herrera.
The tried-and-true decorum-loving lines were drawn yet colored in with a new, light yet exuberant point of view.
A slim spaghetti-strap dress done in the shade of yellow Renée Zellweger wore to the Oscars that one time skimmed the body like chiffon icing. A narrow white funnel-necked, long-sleeve dress worn with sparkly purple booties was modest. It stood in complementary contrast to the magenta coat bursting with ostrich feathers and silver fringe. Taking evening grandeur to a nonstuffy extreme was an Empire gown that exploded into a rainbow of tulle. It was fabulous, fancy but nowhere near stiff. Classic Herrera, it was not. It didn’t need to be — she is wise. She’s bestowing one of the most personal assets a human has rights to — her name — on someone she will have little say over going forward. She set Gordon up to do her proud.