It was with that same besotted tone that Wes Gordon talked through his Fall 2021 collection for Carolina Herrera. It's the brand's 40th anniversary this year, and combined with everything that's happened in New York City since the Covid-19 crisis hit, it has him feeling particularly enamored with the place both he and the house of Herrera call home. That motivated him to return to the American Collections Calendar after sitting out last season.
"It was important for us to do a presentation this season, to show our support for New York City and New York Fashion Week," he explained on a Zoom presentation. "We're a very proud part of Seventh Avenue and New York Fashion Week — we're not going anywhere."
The Herrera team brought that love of New York to the streets, shooting its lookbook at the top of the Empire State Building, as well as taking models to 1 Vanderbilt (which sits across from Grand Central Station) and on a double decker tourist bus to the middle of Times Square. "It's hard for us to get as excited about a video or a photoshoot as we would a show, but this time around, the camaraderie that came from it was something really special," Gordon said. The brand is also making a donation to New York Cares, the city's largest volunteer network.
On the design front, those feelings translated somewhat literally into a suite of heart motifs. "It's more than just a symbol," Gordon noted. "It's a reminder of the importance of love, especially right now." They popped up in intarsia printed sweaters, as embellishment on dresses — a mix of cording, threading and beading — and as prints on Gordon's sophisticated take on a twinset. He incorporated the theme into his tailoring, a sweetheart neckline that he's quite proud of getting just right. The hearts were all over the accessories, too, from earrings and belts to bags and shoes.
Elsewhere on the print front, Gordon was feeling for a late '70s/early '80s vibe (inspired, as always, by Ms. Herrera herself), turning the brand's signature polka dots into a Dalmatian splatter and blowing up the proportions on a giraffe print. Gordon points out how, in his three years as creative director, he's introduced pants into the Herrera lexicon; for Fall 2021, his vision includes a wide-legged dark denim style (with heart-shaped pockets, natch) and flowing numbers with drawstring waists to incorporate a more sporty element — as close to sweatpants as the house of Herrera will ever get.
"At the end of the day, we're making clothes, and clothes need to be worn by the customer, which means we need to think of the lives they're leading," Gordon said.
Of course, while comfort is king, Gordon doesn't abandon the glam he's become so known for. There are a few sequined dresses (a continuation of the "jewel box" Resort 2021 collection in more saturated tones), as well as taffeta ball skirts, another Herrera signature. A few evening numbers incorporate a rainbow, a nod to the cape Gordon created for Lena Waithe at the 2018 Met Gala — one of the first things he did as creative director of the brand. Alek Wek models one show-stopping option, a form-fitting black gown with a ruffled bust and an explosion of pink tulle emerging from the skirt.
Clothes for your next Zoom call these are not (unless you are attending a very fancy Zoom). But according to Gordon, these are garments that will always have a place in the world of Herrera, pandemic or no.
"There are corners of the world where we are still selling gowns, and more importantly than that, one of the most exciting things about my job is the opportunity to work with our incredible atelier at Herrera," Gordon said. "Ultimately, a fashion presentation should be about magic and dreams, and whether it's pragmatic or not, we will always have that in a Herrera collection."
See the complete Carolina Herrera Fall 2021 collection in the gallery below: