While the past year of pandemic has had many designers concerned with just getting through the day-to-day and figuring out how to dress customers who have nowhere to go, Gabriela Hearst has been focused on loftier things. Case in point: her Fall 2021 collection, which was inspired by the medieval saint Hildegard of Bingen.
"Born in 1098, at a time when women were removed from intellectual and creative life, Saint Hildegard was a composer, poet, philosopher, mystic, linguist, botanist and medical theorist," the designer shares in her show notes. "If she were born a man we would all know her name as we know Leonardo da Vinci's."
The show notes go on to highlight the idea that "science and art were the constant threads in [Saint Hildegard's] multidisciplinary existence," which perhaps provides some insight into why Hearst, whose work seeks to marry high-end design with a consciousness tuned to climate and environmental impacts, would be so drawn to the saint.
There aren't many clear visual cues in the collection to point to its original inspiration. It would be a bit of a stretch to try and directly correlate any of the knit dresses worn over pants or long leather coats to depictions of Saint Hildegard, which mostly feature her wearing a nun's habit in shades of dark blue or black — though there are plenty of monochromatic looks in those colors. But Hearst sees a connection between Hildegard's work on nature and her own daughter's flower drawings, which found their way into the collection in the form of prints and knits.
"There is hope that comes from the voice of a woman who, nearly a millennia before us, believed that humanity would realize that the true face of God is compassion," Hearst writes.
In keeping with recent seasons — and perhaps in a nod toward compassion as a divine force — Hearst worked with "women-empowering" non-profit co-ops in Uruguay and Bolivia to create some of the pieces. She also invested in carbon offsets meant to neutralize the impact of the show, this season with a biogas project in Vietnam.
See every look from the Gabriela Hearst Fall 2021 collection in the gallery below.