The Rocky Mountain Locust, Xerces Blue and other of planet earth’s recently extinct insects were memorialized in a print on a silk twill scarf placed on every seat at the Gabriela Hearst show.
It was a sad reminder of the sustainability stakes. But Hearst is one in the industry who can hold her head high; all of her brand packaging is biodegradable, she is an enthusiastic user of eco- and recycled fabrics, and this season she had the first carbon neutral fashion show (which she achieved through donating offset amounts to two projects in Africa that work to replace traditional, toxin-emitting cookstoves with more energy-efficient models).
Which all means there is reason to feel good about wearing this collection, inspired by female profiles in courage, from the goddess Athena, to the 17th-century German botanist Maria Sibylla Merian, Josephine Baker and the Kurdish freedom fighters.
Not that you needed any added reason, because Hearst’s clothes were beautiful. Using more handcraft than she ever has, she explored a more earthy aesthetic than in past outings, and the result felt more warm and accessible, too.
Details like macramé leather netting and fringe and contrast blanket stitching added extra oomph to the designer’s precision-tailored trench coats and pantsuits in silk wool or linen.
Hearst’s own print fabric remnants were spun into silk cording for a braided dress that was a wearable take on upcycling, and geodes were suspended in crochet casing at the neckline of a navy pleated poplin halter dress that was the stuff of bohemian dreams.
Hearst let loose with her use of color, showing a billowy sunflower silk cotton dress with smocking detail, and another in a vivid color block, worn with a geode belt, that looked like the kind of things one would live in all summer.
No afterthought, shoes are becoming a bigger part of her business, and all the sandals with rope details looked fresh. On the handbag front, she encased her best-selling leather Nina bag (loved by Meghan Markle) in a colorful striped cashmere cozy with a shoulder strap, creating a covetable twofer.
And speaking of business, Hearst is traveling to London this week to open her first European store, designed by star-architect Norman Foster using sustainable materials. “We e-mailed him asking to recommend a young architect, and he said, why not me?” she recalled, adding that the boutique has reclaimed wood floors and furniture, linen (rather than cotton) curtains and more. “It was a cool exercise in how you can build a retail environment that’s still luxury, and makes you desire, but is made for the reality we are living today,” she said of the 2,000-square-foot space opening next to Claridge’s. “I like the association with high service — that’s what we do, provide service.”