I was a very dapper kid,” says Wes Gordon, the Custom Suspenders creative director of Carolina Herrera, who at 4 was already partial to double-breasted suits, Windsor-knotted neckties and red suspenders. “I felt it was my duty to give unsolicited fashion advice to anybody around me.” Later, as a teenager, the Chicago-born, Atlanta-raised designer tracked down fashion books on Valentinoand John Galliano, two early idols, and took after-school lessons with a dressmaker.
She’d make me sew along the lines of writing paper until my stitches were perfectly straight,” he says. In 2005, Gordon moved to London to study women’s wear at Central Saint Martins, spending two summers interning with Oscar de la Rentain New York (“I showed up for my interview looking like an extra from ‘Brideshead Revisited’”) before working part-time at Tom Ford’s London atelier in Chelsea. Upon graduating in 2009, he moved to Manhattan for good and launched his namesake collection from his studio apartment, where he slept on an air mattress. Despite its scrappy start.
Gordon’s elegant line full of youthful cocktail dresses, suits and jumpsuits in vibrant, happy hues was soon picked up by Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods, and later worn by everyone from Lena Dunham to Michelle Obama.Three years ago, Gordon’s wide-ranging appeal landed him a consulting gig at Carolina Herrera, where he hit it off with the designer herself, who, after overseeing more than 72 collections since founding her company in 1981, was thinking about retiring. She took her final bow in February 2018, naming Gordon her successor. So far, he’s stayed true to the house’s signatures of exuberant florals, en tremblant embroideries and exquisitely crafted evening wear.
To me, there’s nothing sadder than a new creative director going into a great heritage brand and getting rid of everything,” he says. “But I don’t want anyone to think of us as being stuffy or uptight.” In addition to voluminous gowns in saturated silks, Gordon’s reinvention has included miniskirts worn with schoolgirl blazers, belted midi-dresses made with organic denim and a pride-flag cape that Lena Waithe wore to the 2018 Met Gala. “I’ve banned dusty, drab colors,” says the designer. “There’s enough darkness in the world, and you don’t buy Carolina Herrera clothes to disappear — you buy them to feel spectacular.”