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July 11 2014

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Rising Star, Wes Gordon

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The night before Wes Gordon was set to make his New York debut, it seemed fate might be against him. “It was September 2010 and there was a horrible blizzard that night—I kept looking out the window every 30 seconds to see if the snow was sticking,” he tells Style.com. The snow wasn’t the only thing that stuck that season—Gordon, a Georgia-born Central Saint Martins grad, made a lasting impression on the editors and designers (including one of his mentors, Oscar de la Renta) who trudged through the arctic weather to see what he had to offer. (Of his first collection, Style.com’s Nicole Phelps said, “With their smart cut and perfect fit, those pieces looked like the work of a seasoned pro.”) Just a few seasons out, Gordon is still wowing the fashion set with his luxe offerings (“my all-time favorite is Hermès, but I think the bar is set by Chanel,” he says), an aesthetic that can surely be attributed to his summers spent working under de la Renta and Tom Ford. Most recently, the Fashion Group International recognized his work, nominating him for an FGI Rising Star Award along with other womenswear contenders like Ally Hilfiger and Nary Manivong (of Nahm), Joel Diaz and Christina LaPens (of Jolibe), and Miguel Antoinne. Before Thursday’s FGI Rising Star Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street, Gordon (one of the most promising nominees on the list) talked to Style.com about everything, and everyone, from Rooney Mara to Tom Ford.

How is your upcoming collection going to expand upon or differ from your last collection?
I know, it’s three weeks from tomorrow! I would say it’s always a continuation. The mood, it’s a little darker this time around than ever before. In terms of attention to luxe materials and elegance, that’s still there like usual.

How exactly is it darker?
It’s darker in a Rooney Mara sort of way—it’s like a blend of Dragon Tattoo and Great Expectations.

Speaking of Rooney Mara, who would you like to see wearing your clothes? Is she the ultimate for you?
The most exciting thing to me is to see strangers, women I have no connection to, wearing my stuff. That’s who I want to see more than anything. Celebrities are really great, but the first time I see a complete stranger in New York in a coat of mine, I am going to give a high five and tackle her. She might call the police. The idea of strangers going to a store and falling in love with my work is so exciting.

Before starting your own line, you learned from a few of the best in the industry: Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta. Who did you learn more from?
When I was at Tom, they were just doing menswear at the time. Being in both environments you learn so much by osmosis. Tom is very glam and sexy and slick. You learn to be a perfectionist. At Oscar, it’s the drama and beauty of American couture—it’s how you imagine fashion to be. They really are two of the best. Seeing how it all works and happens, at Tom and Oscar, it has merged in my head.

What’s the best piece of advice, in terms of your design career, you have ever received?
When you are a small team making a lot of inventory, it would be easy to look the other way when something is a little off and not entirely perfect, but one thing I learned is, that is the last thing you want to do. The client is so intelligent and the stores are so aware and it’s your name going out there. It sounds silly to say—it would be easy to say, “It’s good enough,” but it has to be perfect every time.

What other young designers do you especially like?
Prabal is amazing and so talented. Going back to Rooney, she looked so good in his dress. Carly Cushnie is also a friend of mine and Michelle Obama looked beautiful in her dress. And Proenza is super-cool but they are pretty big now, so…

You are in good company with a great group of young designers in the womenswear category for the FGI Rising Star Award. What does the FGI Award mean to you?
It’s such an honor, especially in this crazy stressful time, with my show coming up, to find out that I was nominated. FGI is such a great group of amazing people in the industry and I am really flattered.

What’s on the horizon for Wes Gordon?
We have been building a nice base with amazing stores, and each season we grow it. Last season was the first time with knits, I have a line coming out with Jones New York for Bloomingdale’s in March, and I have shoe collaborations (we worked with Manolo Blahnik on shoes for our most recent collection). We are going slowly but in the right way. I want to get more into accessories, increase our ready-to-wear, and I think I might do Resort this time.

Photo: Courtesy of Wes Gordon

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