How can we make waste beautiful?
That was the challenge Gabriela Hearst gave herself this season. From reimagining her own past season cashmere coats under a new Retrofit label, to using bales of recycled paper for runway set pieces, she continues to position herself as a new standard bearer of responsible luxury. Her strong fall lineup also asserted her expertise in the categories of tailoring, outerwear and rich hippie artisanal extras, while never sacrificing style for substance.
Big on fabric development, Hearst created a new cashmere corduroy to give pantsuits an everyday softness and ease, adding feminine touches such as corset-stitch detailing at the waist. Continuing in an earthy palette, she upcycled Turkish kilim rugs into a double-breasted peacoat worn with a boucle knit skirt, and elevated the hippie’s favorite paneled denim maxiskirt by rendering it in denim-blue cashmere.
Fringe detail added interest to a covetable wheat-hued suede trenchcoat, and swing to a saffron silk dress. And hand-crocheted dresses, with open knit cutouts at the sides, added sex appeal.
She sourced recycled cashmere for chunky sweaters, and worked with the artisans at Manos del Uruguay to make the rainbow poncho and blanket coat that were major show pieces. Hand-painted leather coats and boots with mandala designs added to the counterculture vibe, hammered home by Buffalo Springfield’s protest song, “For What It’s Worth” on the soundtrack.
“We tried to make things with waste that look elegant, refined and desirable,” Hearst said during a preview, noting that she took two past season coats, one navy and one beige, and spliced them together with her signature herringbone stitch for a color-block effect, under a new label she’s calling RetroFit, preparing for the eventuality that brands may be prevented by law from getting rid of — or burning — excess stock.
So far, her approach to luxury is paying off, she said, noting that her new store in London, the second for the brand after the Madison Avenue flagship, outperformed sales expectations by 30 percent in its first four months. She’s eyeing Asia for her next one.
“We need to figure out how to do business within the reality in which we exist,” she continued. “Everything takes energy — fossil fuels, carbon or renewable. With energy, we have to move forward and with clothing we have to look backward to crafting things that are special and long lasting. We have to figure out a way to do what we do with less impact, because in the next 10 years, we are going to have water shortages, and with the implications of climate change, certain things just aren’t going to matter anymore. It will eradicate the superficial. But you can still create beautiful things, which we have been doing for thousands of years.”
One of those things, not seen on the runway but at the preview, was a charming box bag made after an antique racing game, with mechanical ceramic horses taking a lap around the interior. “They are all hand-enameled by a British toymaker,” the designer explained. “If it’s something new that’s going to occupy a place on this planet, it has to make you feel something.” That’s Hearst, leading the sustainable fashion conversation at full gallop.