Creating the extraordinary
Placing joy and colour at the core of every collection seems to come easy to Wes Gordon, who has been at the helm of Carolina Herrera since 2018. But in fact, he was never as in love with bright hues until he entered the cheerful world of one of the most iconic American brands.
Transforming his creative and business mindset takes time, but season after season we are seeing his modern version of a Herrera girl, yet the familiar codes of the brand are intact. Finding that balance isn’t easy for any designer, but it does help when, like Wes, you already love the brand and everything it stands for.
How would you define Carolina Herrera today?
Carolina Herrera is a rainbow in a grey sky. It is clothing for a woman who wants to live her every moment of her life as a celebration. Clothing that creates joy, laughter, smiles, clothing that celebrates colour and clothing that allows the woman to feel her most beautiful and confidant.
Talk us through your Spring/Summer 2020 collection?
I was inspired specifically by the superbloom. The superbloom is a botanical phenomenon and it happened in California last spring. It occurs when there is a year of drought, when the plants in the die and these mountains and hills become a desert. Then the next year spontaneously, in like two days, what was once a desert becomes a carpet of wonderful flowers. That vivaciousness that exposes life and colour is what I wanted to capture in my collection. This phenomenon is rare, but it’s now happening because of the global warming.
Is it a challenge to evolve the DNA of a brand like Carolina Herrera?
I think of course it is a challenge. I think it would be wrong for a creative director to be at a house where he or she did not already respect and love some of the codes, and unfortunately I think that happens. I love a lot of what Mrs. Herrera created, so for me it’s really more of a redecoration than a total renovation. It’s an evolution, not a revolution. It’s picking and choosing which part of our DNA to emphasise more. I feel very lucky that my personal taste is aligned with many of the values of Herrera and try to make sure that women who loved Herrera for decades will continue to do so, but also to introduce the brand to a new generation.
Can you define your design aesthetic in a sentence?
I think you can never lock yourself away. I think to be a designer, it’s about knowing the woman for who you are designing and understanding her and really designing for her, because when you’re locked away, you are just doing an art project. I believe that all of our things are just fabric until the woman actually puts it on. Only then it becomes a dress. And then my main overall source of inspiration every season is colour. Herrera now is a house of colour. I love colour, the house loves colour, our woman loves colour. The first thing I do each season is create my colour cards. I believe in happy colours, I hate sad colours like a muddy dusty, chalky colors. I like colours that are full of life the colours with a pure pigment like super high saturation – a red that’s a red, a pink that is the most delicious pink.
What elements of Carolina Herrera do you think appeals to women in the Middle East?
What I am learning is that this is an old fashion way of thinking about clients. Breaking them down by age groups or geographic regions or economic groups is so wrong. The better way is for us identify the type of woman who loves Herrera, who we are designing for and think of her by her characteristics and her personality traits. You will find that she crosses over into many different age groups, and world regions.
What have you learnt about yourself as a designer since joining the Carolina Herrera family?
I am defiantly more colourful than when I started at Herrera. The first thing I did was make big boards of what a woman would look like at night, what she looks like during the day, what her house, bags and shoes look like. That was an exercise that I was kind of removed from, but now over time I’ve become one with that.
What has been your own personal highlight?
I love the last show, it was so beautiful. We took over the whole park and created a glass bubble at the bottom – so it was just a tent in an endless green. We covered it with white carpeting and we had Kylie Minogue playing. I’ve also been lucky to make some pieces for the Duchess of Sussex which is amazing. But despite all the cool things we have done its always when you see a stranger wearing a piece from my collection, because when a woman has gone to a store with 300 brands and chosen this piece and paid for it – that’s amazing, that’s magic.
How do you see the brand evolving?
We do eight collections a year and the product is getting better and better. Our codes are becoming more developed so that’s really exciting to me. The most important thing is to make sure that the product is extraordinary, and every season we are getting more and more extraordinary.
What is your advice for aspiring designers?
I went straight from school and started my own collection and did that for eight years, and on one hand I would say do not do that because it’s stressful and very difficult. But everything I experienced then trained me to be a greater director and understand areas of the business that I would otherwise never understood, so my advice is to figure out where do you see yourself in 10 years and really work that way. Think what that is and how to get there, and be patient. Be humble because no one will become Mr. Armani or Ralph Lauren in one year, so keep your dreams kind of manageable.