Story by JAIME LIN WEINSTEIN
Photography by COLBY BLOUNT | Styling by BELINDA MARTIN | Model: NINA DE RAADT for New York Model Management Makeup by KATY ALBRIGHT for Agency Gerard Management | Hair by CLAY NIELSEN for Opus Beauty | Photo Assistant: MICHELLE KAPPELER | Stylist Assistant: RACHEL BARE
This article appears in the Winter 2014 issue of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below.
Outside his financial District studio at 8 a.m. on a cold New York morning, Wes Gordon is running late (and as a young de- signer with a team that you can count on two hands, he’s the only one with the key). The po- tential culprit? An event for Cartier the night before. “Wes showed up with an entourage of eight girls with him,” his publicist explains. One might call it careless; Gordon might call it work. “The perpetual source of inspiration for me are the women,” the designer says the next day from his latest trunk show in San Francisco. Indeed, while the average millennial males are browsing Tinder profiles to discover the women meaningful to their lives, Gordon is traveling the country to find his. And at 28 years old, he may have the looks of youth — including a clean-shaven, undeniable “baby face” complete with a full head of (gorgeous) hair and an almost impish grin — but the sophistication in his designs tell of a man who has far more years experience attracting women than his age might convey.
Granted, Gordon is no fashion industry ingénue. Born in Chicago and raised in Atlanta, he was seduced by style at a young age. “I was always kind of under the spell of fashion, and the way beautiful clothes make you feel,” he explains. By the time he reached high school, he had chosen fashion design as a career and started taking pattern- making and sewing lessons from a local couturier before enrolling at Central Saint Martins (the London school with notable alums Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Stella McCartney, among others). Summer internships with Tom Ford and the late Oscar de la Renta prepared him to begin his own line upon graduation in 2009. His eyes light up when thinking back to his first presentation at the Fall/Winter 2010 New York Fashion Week. There may have only been five models and a dozen or so press and buyers at a time, but Gordon’s sleek aesthetic and tailored elegance proved his potential; Harrods and Saks Fifth Avenue promptly picked up the line.
Almost a dozen collections later, his vision, along with the women he aims to dress, are becoming increasingly refined. “There are so many different elements and components that go into a strong collection, but definitely the overarching theme is the woman that I imagine wearing it and that I know to be wearing it,” he explains. Thus the trunk shows — an opportunity to spend time with the clients, get to know them, get to know the lives they lead and see what they love from the collection. What he’s learned to date: “They’re tired of things that are so precious, that have to be wrapped in tissue paper at the back of the closet. But they’re also tired of androgynous uniforms,” the designer muses. “So I want clothes that women wear in their lives, that can become a part of their wardrobe, and that can become that piece they constantly go to because they love how it makes them look.” This translates to streamlined garments that don’t overpower the woman wearing them (“There aren’t unnecessary seams; it’s not origami.”) enhanced by feminine details and a quiet edge. Think slip dresses in Chantilly lace, chunky knits over lightweight silk and organza skirts, or a baby-blue wool bomber with a fox collar paired with a pencil skirt — all from Gordon’s Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear collection.
One might call it clothing for the “modern” woman, though lately the term gets tossed around in association with just about anything this side of the second millennium. “So often today I think modern means narrow and vulgar,” Gordon says. His collections nod to a more “ladylike” sensibility, which makes sense, considering he calls himself an “old soul.” And his ability to balance what appears fresh and new with the romanticism of a sartorial past has made him a red-carpet favorite for celebrities that span generations — from Lena Dunham and Katy Perry to Gwyneth Paltrow and even Michelle Obama. (The First Lady wore one of his metallic, houndstooth jackets to the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in 2012.) “I actually found out on Twitter!” he exclaims. “I continue to just get perpetually star-struck ... It never gets less exciting.”
But the most thrilling moment in his career thus far was when he started to notice strangers wearing his clothes. “At first, you’re a small business, and you have very small volumes so you’ll make five of a dress, and you know exactly where those five are, and it’s a friend of a friend, or someone you have two degrees of separation from,” Gordon explains. “When you start seeing a stranger on the street in a piece, that’s really exciting because that means that she walked into a store, and with all the options there in front of her, she fell in love with that piece you made, enough to buy it, take it home and wear it, without knowing you, without having a relationship with you.” Of course there have been more public moments of pride. Gordon received the 2012 FGI Rising Star Award and is a four-time recipient of the coveted Swarovski Collective sponsorship (Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014 and Spring 2015). He was also a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist in 2012 and 2014 (you might have seen him posing alongside actress Grace Gummer in the November 2014 issue of Vogue).
Even with all the recent fanfare, it’s apparent that his focus remains on his brand — and with that, his women. One might expect a designer to prepare a rack of clothing options for themselves, but at his shoot the day before, Gordon brought only three (and a pair of misplaced cufflinks narrowed the selection further). “I spend so much time thinking about my collection that the idea of trying to think about what I’m going to wear, I don’t have time for it,” he says. And when he’s not perfecting the look of his designs on the model beside him, he’s taking every opportunity between shots to head back to his desk and talk with his team. Owe it to an unprecedented work ethic. Or the tenacity of youth. Or utter ambition. “For me, the idea of having my own collection and being a fashion designer were always one in the same ... I want to spend my life building my own brand, brick by brick. And I didn’t want to have a second not devoted to that.”
For now, that devotion is to womenswear. “It’s really kind of a beautiful world to design in ... There’s a creative freedom, a sense of adventure, a sense of reinvention,” he says, in a way that almost mimics the clothing he designs, if a tone could imitate apparel. It sounds romantic and charm- ing, but his words are direct and honest. Currently working on his Fall/Winter 2015 collection that he describes as a dichotomy between sweet and tough that stays true to his signature refinement, it seems it’s only a matter of time before women the world over will be wearing Wes Gordon.