New York designers have learned several lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, not only to keep a luxury-focused fashion company afloat amid a global lockdown, but also to understand the importance of making choices that are fully rooted in personal satisfaction versus a paramount concern about the bottom line. And if a satisfied designer equates to a commercially successful collection, it may not be a coincidence.
For example, both Brandon Maxwell and Carolina Herrera creative director Wes Gordon approached the Spring/Summer 2023 collections they debuted this week. Gordon’s presentation at The Plaza radiated an unabashed joy in each of its elements, from the iconic New York location to the spotlight on bright floral prints – a theme inspired by the 1911 novel Frances Hodgson Burnett The Secret Garden — and especially the show’s soundtrack, a mix of Barbra Streisand’s most exuberant Broadway and cinema hits.
“I didn’t want hipster EDM music, I wanted fun music the girls would love,” Gordon said News Kidda after the performance. Indeed, it was impossible not to notice that even Karlie Kloss, one of the catwalk champions, seemed to find another gear in her step when Streisand’s voice played the title song of Hello, Dollie!
“Literally from the downbeat, from the first note, I knew this was going to be one of the most joyous, uplifting, powerful collections we’ve ever seen from Wes,” said Broadway producer Jordan Roth, whose company owns and operates the August Wilson Theater, where Lea Michele is currently living her dream eight times a week as Fanny Brice in funny girlthe role that made Streisand famous in 1964.
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” indeed felt more than a little sublime when Gordon’s collection hit the runway, where celebrities including Guardians of the Universe actress Karen Gillan, singer Ellie Goulding, Martha Stewart and Sabrina Carpenter sat in the front row. Gordon was not only inspired by Burnett’s novel because it was his mother’s favorite book and she read it to him when he was a child, but it also allowed him to fully embrace his love of color and flowers. “The secret part in the collection came from the black injections you saw everywhere, a note amid the softness and the romance,” he explains. “I wasn’t worried about chasing trends — instead, I double down on who I am and who the house is and just create pieces that are unashamedly about beauty.”
Five floral prints formed the heart of the collection: Gordon calls them “the seeds of my garden”. These cheerful bouquets in bright hues of pink, yellow and pale blue were mixed with splashes of black in silhouettes that felt unmistakably Upper East Side. The silhouettes included crisp white shirts and black trousers with floral belts to midriff-bare mixes of bustier tops with A-line skirts that reached almost to the ankle and a gorgeous mix of a striped full sleeve blouse paired with a yellow floral ball gown skirt. with pockets. “I took derivations from the five prints and blew some up on a chiffon, downsized some, or took a detail from another,” Gordon explains. “Many of them read as completely different things, even if they’re the same anemone flower.”
Gordon also had fun with lavish floral corsages on the shoulders of a few dresses, including a stunner of a red silk crepe dress. If the dress looked familiar, it’s because Kate Hudson wore the design two days before the runway premiere when she appeared on the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival. “There’s always been a feeling that the unveiling of a collection has to be a big secret, but I don’t think that’s our world anymore,” Gordon says. “If something is beautiful, share it. I’m honored and happy she wore it the day before our show.”
Happiness is also synonymous with tranquility, and Brandon Maxwell was only too willing to channel that sensibility with his latest collection. The designer who rose to fame as a stylist for Lady Gaga and other high-wattage stars was looking for a quieter life, he says — and why not? Lately, his schedule has been bursting with projects, from a stint as a guest designer for FILA, a tennis clothing line that arrived in stores in August and feels both classic and modern, as well as his work as the creative director of Walmart’s fashion brands, which debuted in February. “Next week we will also start filming the TV show,” Maxwell added, referring to season 20 of Bravo’s Project Runwayon which he stars alongside Kloss, fellow designer Christian Siriano, and Elle editor in chief Nina Garcia.
“It’s so nice to be able to go to work and be a part of someone’s journey,” Maxwell says of the reality competition show. “I know it’s a TV show, but the filming and the process is very real and very human. And honestly I don’t feel far from where [the contestants] so it’s a great pleasure to be a part of what they’re going through.”
So it’s understandable why Maxwell would want to leave Manhattan so that he can enjoy a more rural existence during his off hours. The designer soon discovered that the early morning hours, filled with birdsong and sunrise hues, were not only relaxing, but also deeply inspiring. “Those hours between 5 and 7 have been the most restorative in my life over the past few months,” he said. THR backstage after his performance.
Lavender, which Maxwell calls “a very calm color that also has no sense of urgency,” became a central theme, which was also used for the lighting of his presentation space, a series of galleries in Christie’s auction house in Midtown. From the start, sunrise hues mingled with neutrals created a pale mix in pieces such as low-slung wheat pants with an apricot tank splashed with bright sequins, as well as asymmetrical skirts that fell to one hip and wide legs paired with a strapless top embellished with black sequins and golden daisies.
In the end, it was a great combination of shine and convenience. “You never want to lose the DNA and core of the brand, which is a very polished look,” says Maxwell. “But you also want to imbue it with where you are now, which for me is a bit more relaxed place, I guess.”
Maxwell’s flowers also radiated that ease and never felt precious or forced; one print previously evoked thoughts of the photosensitive paper kids use to make nature prints in elementary school — which isn’t to say they looked childish. Instead, they felt chic and natural in their simplicity. “Where I live now, it has brought back a lot of memories of where I grew up,” explains Maxwell, referring to his Texan roots. “I think a lot of the peace and quiet has led to thoughts of when life slowed down, the future seemed unknown and I dreamed about working in fashion. With that in mind, I wanted some things to be a little less obvious. would be lying.:
A flowing strapless dress in that floral print was one of the hits of the collection, as was a silver sequin mermaid skirt embellished with sequin flowers in pink, lavender and moss green — just in case Maxwell’s red carpet fans were worried he wouldn’t have those pieces ready. . “Having been a stylist for so many years, I think that will always stay in my head, even if it’s not something I consciously plan to do,” he notes. “Right now I’m really focused on saying what I want to say through the collection; if that turns out to be a long dress, fine, but if it isn’t, that’s fine too. The past few years have been tough, but right now I feel really grateful.”