Wes Gordon’s loving a very specific kind of contrast. “It’s the idea of grand gestures and dramatic silhouettes, but in a way that’s not overdone or overdesigned,” he said during a preview. “I call it minimalist maximalism.”
That catchphrase perfectly captures Gordon’s fall collection for Carolina Herrera, the result of a design process that started with a focus on flowers. “I was thinking that when all the flowers are dormant and sleeping, Herrera is blooming. It’s very Chance the Gardener from ‘Being There,’” he said. He began his research not on an Instagram tour of great gardens of the world, but more intimately, studying the flower photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, a dear friend and portraitist of the house founder.
Gordon referenced the inspiration with a sunflower wall that was installed in the entrance of the New York Historical Society, where the show was held. But on the runway, the theme didn’t scream. Rather, he controlled his literal references in a smattering of prints. The most flamboyant: vibrant blue-on-yellow posies that opened the show in a billowing floor-length trapeze. He also showed an allover sequined floor-length T-shirt with a huge iris running up the front and another in back.
Otherwise, Gordon celebrated flora with color — vibrant oranges, yellows and pinks drawn from nature on her sunniest days —interspersed with smart respites of black and white. And he worked it all in a balanced dialogue between tailoring and flou, trim pantsuits, some with peekaboo waists, contrasting ethereal full-skirted dresses. Along the way, Gordon celebrated Herrera-isms, particularly the shirt, shown most faithfully in white tucked into slim black pants and sashed in pink, and more irreverently in oversized sheer tuxedo shirts in bright pink and yellow over trousers and a white shirt-cum-giant-tent-gown that closed the show.
It was all a pleasure to take in. Yes, one could read a dash of Valentino influence in the volumes, here as at a lot of places. But for the most part, Gordon went his own way. In just two runway seasons, he has taken significant steps to resolve the conundrum facing many legacy ready-to-wear houses: how to stay true to the brand ethos while making clothes that look polished but feel relaxed and yes, younger. Gordon’s approach was to stick a pin in the pomp. The exhale charmed.