“We’re incredibly lucky as a house, and I’m lucky as a designer, to have an archive of incredible imagery of the actual woman, Mrs. Herrera, and her sense of style and sartorial expression. I think her eye is extraordinary and the impetus for her starting the brand was that she was a best-dressed fixture,” Wes Gordon said during a preview, discussing his muse of the season, Carolina Herrera herself.
While Gordon continually upholds codes of the House of Herrera, his pre-fall and upcoming fall collections portray the narrative and storytelling of her life, in three chapters.
More from WWD
“Because I think I’m always inspired and motivated by this idea of this really chic woman and how she dresses. It’s not just about a loud dress, it’s about the right dress and it’s about the accessories you pair with it to amplify the message and all these little nuances and subtle expressions of identity. That’s something that she is such a master of. I think there are a few living people with a photo documentation of their life like Mrs. Herrera, by the best living photographers — [Patrick] Demarchelier, [Robert] Mapplethorpe, [Horst P.] Horst; I could list every single photographer who’s shot her at some point,” he said, flipping through archival photographs of the designer’s life.
For both collections, Gordon divided her story into three chapters, the first for pre-fall being Herrera’s life in her native Venezuela, where she lived with her husband and young family at Hacienda La Vega. The Spanish colonial building, with its courtyards and blooming gardens, inspired the collection’s romantic and painterly florals, ruffled organzas and feminine chiffon dressing. “This is very romantic and sweet and lovely and feminine,” he said.
An image of Herrera sitting on her front porch at Hacienda La Vega, clad in a light yellow two-piece taffeta dress, inspired two modernized looks: a one-piece ruched dress, cut in white cotton, and a more “literal recreation,” a halter crop top with easy skirt in black cotton — “giving a modern edge to it,” Gordon said. Daytime ease, too.
Keeping in line with his spring runway for pre-fall, which he described as more clean and linear, Gordon continued to emphasize the importance of color statements throughout the collection with unfussy, glam color-blocked and statement monochromatic gowns and cocktail attire (with just the right amount of sparkling statement embroideries) in shades of blue, green, pink and silver, with suede belts, playful bow sashes and shoes in hues “just a shade off.”
He continued to nail the idea of modern homage with pre-fall’s second chapter, which homed in on Herrera’s life in New York, where she moved in 1980 with her family, before starting her own business in ‘81.
“She was coming into Midtown, a mother of four, and suddenly the imagery changes from these beautiful maxiskirts and dresses and flowers to suits and tailoring and little jackets and tweeds. There’s this kind of cosmopolitan edge to it, but still very pulled together, and very her,” he said, getting into the working girl ethos with pretty plaids, like an adorable cropped cape with matching miniskirt, worn over a ladybug bow blouse.
Gordon expanded on the ‘70s/’80s look of the New York working woman with tailoring — a sharp black suit with rounded neckline and tied sleeves or Herrera-esque white suiting, updated with a relaxed fit and single buttons. Also, sophisticated, yet easy day dresses, and sleek mock-neck knits and wide-leg crepe pants and wool T-shirts with matching big pants, ultra-chic in monochrome red and black.
A few of the looks were topped off with black birdcage pillbox hats and a pearl brooch. Big costume jewelry — oversized pearls, florals and ‘80s gold doorknocker earrings — and playful handbags added to the desire to have fun and dress up, while signaling the importance of the brand’s growing retail footprint.
“Retail’s going to grow a lot over the year and a half of our own stores, so we really have the opportunity there to play with all of these fun components, like hats. Really having these lifestyle components in addition to those magical Herrera pieces,” Gordon said, tying in the brand’s recent news of opening its first Palm Beach location.
Launch Gallery: Carolina Herrara Pre-Fall 2024
Best of WWD