One of the first things many of the 150 guests at Gabriela Hearst’s first runway show likely noticed was the soft-as-a-cloud 100 percent Italian cashmere-knit pillow waiting on their seat — theirs to keep. Unless they pulled the tag out of the backing or heard it from Hearst herself, as WWD did at her studio the night before the show, no one would know that the pillows were made by Manos del Uruguay, a nonprofit that employs craftswomen in Uruguay, with the leftover yarn from the fluffy pink, gray and ivory sweaters that were not on the runway but back in her showroom.
“I just want to convey the message that I want [the collection] to be luxurious and beautiful, but not wasteful,” said Hearst, noting that, to that end, she had also chosen to work with existing fabrics from some of her mills for about 30 percent of the collection, including a pink cashmere tailored coat, which put limits on production. (Only 10 of that style can be produced.) For the starry-night-sky embroidery on a lovely velvet slipdress, she asked Swarovski for stock crystals. No one would ever know that they weren’t “new.”
These gestures were undetectable in the face value of the collection, which was very much in line with the classic, impeccably made modern luxury that is Hearst’s core aesthetic. Fall was still about elegant but sturdy tailoring, second-skin layering knits, soft, modestly minimal dresses and a few showpieces. A gorgeous navy double-breasted cashmere tailored coat with a full skirt opened the show. A burgundy fine knit ballerina-esque bodysuit with a scoop neck and low-cut back was worn under a midlength wool accordion-pleated skirt in multicolored panels. One of the biggest and best statements in louche luxury was a bathrobe-like herringbone gold velvet trench over matching trousers. Hearst added to her small bag collection with a nifty new accordion-top bucket and a backpack. Shoes came in sturdy platform wedges or short heels studded with carved turquoise and ivory resin.
Even if it was invisible to the naked eye, infusing her designs with thoughtfulness and purpose was important to Hearst and relevant to her seasonal inspiration. After seeing Ava DuVernay’s stirring documentary “13th” last year, Hearst was struck by Angela Davis and the poise and courage she showed at such a young age. She wanted the collection to reflect Davis’ strong sense of self. “We would ask, ‘Would Angela Davis wear it?’” said Hearst.
Without knowing what Davis would actually wear, it’s safe to say that any woman can wear Hearst’s designs to court, to the office, for a night out and even on the couch at home, in one of the extra fine merino knit long johns used for layering, and feel confident that she is one of the best-dressed people in the room.