One such designer that is familiar with this routine all too well is Wes Gordon. Fresh off a successful presentation at New York Fashion Week, Wes Gordon dropped by Neapolitan Boutique in Winnetka to give his top clients a firsthand look at his most recent collection. Displayed in the luxurious space are the highly covetable pieces of Wes Gordon ripped straight from the runway. The entire left-hand side of the boutique features pieces with metal chains, luxurious furs, and soft feminine dresses made of hand sewn chiffon. On a mannequin lay a plaid dress sprinkled with lace detailing, giving the wearer a touch of spunk with femininity. As one peruses the racks of the varying collections of Wes Gordon, one is able to see the evolution of the designer first hand.
Wes Gordon and I sat down at the front of the store in the plush seating of Neapolitan for our conversation. Dressed in a black blazer and white button down, glimpses of Gordon’s vibrant personality were displayed by his bright red, orange, and pink striped socks that peeked through his brown leather loafers. Before we begin the interview, he lets out a chuckle with a wide grin on his face because he received a cartoon portraiture from his boyfriend (now fiancé) of his cockapoo named Bird. The adorable Cocker Spaniel Poodle mixed pup even has quite the fan base with an impressive Instagram following, much like his famous father.
So far I had learned that in the midst of the whirlwind of being a designer, he still can appreciate a good app. This set the scene for the intimate conversation I had with the highly in-demand Wes Gordon. Appointments with him were filled throughout his brief visit to Chicago, so I was very fortunate to have some time to chat. Mere hours before catching a plane before his much-needed vacation to Cuixmala, Mexico, we discussed his beginning, where the Wes Gordon brand is now, and where he would like to see himself as he continues to progress throughout his career.
For Wes Gordon, it all started at just the age of four when he insisted on wearing suspenders and suede shoes to preschool. Essentially when other kids would don their Gymboree wears on the playground, Wes Gordon could be spotted looking as dapper as ever in his suspenders and suede. Another sign that the youngster was meant to become the designer that we know today is that he frequently would visit his mother’s wardrobe insisting that he knew what she should wear to work. These were just a few of the early signs that fashion was running through Wes Gordon’s blood. It wasn’t necessarily a career path that lead to him creating the Wes Gordon brand, but rather something that was a part of his being. He explains that “it was a natural path. It’s who I am and what I do”
While Wes Gordon was born in Chicago, he’s indeed the Southern gentlemen as his roots are in Atlanta. Growing up in Atlanta, the burgeoning designer was surrounded by the beauty and romance that encompassed the South. When driving along those Southern roads, one may notice the immaculately trimmed lawns of Buckhead mansions, and the eclectic coffee shops and bungalow homes of Virginia Highlands. Beauty is so inherent to the South, that Wes Gordon jokingly mentions how people will go bankrupt for beautiful window treatments. He shares that “Trying to surround yourself with beauty is prevalent in the South” For Wes Gordon, his Southern roots permeate through his designs with something as simple as the intrinsically romantic touch of lace.
The romance of the South followed the designer as he traveled to London to study at the prestigious Central Saint Martins. The famed institution is known for graduating fashion greats such as Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, and John Galliano. Wes Gordon shared with me how it was Galliano that drew him to the famous institution. While growing up, it was impossible for him not to marvel at the spectacle of a lavish Dior production. Wes expresses that it was everything from the hair, the makeup, and the clothes that intrigued him about Galliano’s reign at Dior. While Wes Gordon like any young designer had a profound sense of admiration for Galliano, he admired the legendary designer from afar. He did not seek to become the next Galliano or emulate his aesthetic. Instead, he focused on crafting a sleek and polished look for the modern everyday woman opting out of the fashion show spectacle.
With beginnings in the South and school in London, the pieces of the puzzle for Wes Gordon were completed when he made his move to New York. Using his internship with Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta as leverage; a month after moving he launched his eponymous line and the rest was history. It didn’t take long for Bergdorf, Harrods and Chicago’s own Neapolitan to get on board with the promising designer. And soon celebrities and socialites began gallivanting about in his designs.
This transition to NY was key for Wes Gordon considering his practical pieces fit seamlessly into the hustle and bustle of the city. In his words, there is a streamlined efficiency in his designs. While beautiful and unique, each piece remains connected to reality making each piece incredibly wearable even off the runways. Not trying to be trendy or follow fads, Wes Gordon designs with the intent of transcending the seasons. With design inspirations from Cate Blanchett and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, one can see a mix of sleek modernity with a touch of femininity in Wes Gordon designs.
We soon get on the topic of modernity and I can tell that he has always grappled with the definition and meaning behind this commonly used fashion adjective. In the fashion world, modernity means many things but according to Wes Gordon, it often translates to sterile, stiff, soulless and no personality. For him, the woman who wears his designs is not seeking that androgynous stiff aesthetic that is commonly associated with the modern look. For Wes Gordon, it’s about designing a piece that makes her feel special and unique. Each collection features that special something whether it be that S/S 2016 hand sewed chiffon gown or the F/W 2015 embroidered jumpsuit. Wes Gordon designs pieces that are meant to take your breath away. In the world where there are 7 billion inhabitants, he mentions that “If you are going to be a designer today, it’s important that you make clothes and wear clothes that make you feel unique”
With celebrities and public figures striving for a unique look, it’s not surprising that many turn to Wes Gordon and line the front row year after year at his shows. Wes Gordon can be seen on the likes of First Lady, Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles, and, Gwyneth Paltrow. While it’s always a delight for him to see his designs worn by a celebrity or featured in the pages of Vogue, his proudest moment is when complete strangers are wearing his designs. He expresses that “Nothing makes me more excited than seeing a stranger wear our clothes. Because that means she’s going to a store where there’s everything from Dior to Armani. Every amazing brand is here (Neapolitan) and for whatever reason she’s fallen in love with one of our amazing pieces, purchased it, taken it home, and wearing it in her life”
Having dressed celebrities and the everyday chic woman since his brands inception, Wes Gordon has quickly become a novice designer with veteran accolades. For the past four years, the designer has collaborated with legendary shoe designer Manolo Blahnik. He recalls of his first presentation when he had to scramble at the last minute to find 30 pairs of nude shoes. Fast forward to now, the designer is no longer scrambling for shoes as the Manolo Blahnik collaboration fits seamlessly with his brand. His most recent collection features Manolo Blahnik for Wes Gordon white suede loafers that tell the Spring/Summer 2016 story of the demure grunge woman of the 90’s.
While always approached for collaborations, Wes Gordon will only work with someone if it’s different and something he has never done before. He particularly is drawn to brands that do one thing very well, and Austrian eyeglass brand Silhouette does just that. When approached by Silhouette, the collaboration was a no-brainer as the vision and brand went hand in hand with Wes Gordon. The S/S 2016 collection featured the innovative collection with round tinted sunglasses that fit seamlessly with the edgy Winona Ryder inspired collection. Wes Gordon shares how the glasses are incredibly light weight even featuring no hinges. The practicality of that alone is why this collaboration is a match made in heaven for the efficient yet beautiful Wes Gordon designs. Wes Gordon for Silhouette is expected to debut in 2016.
With a plethora of achievements under his belt, the fashion world certainly has a watchful eye on the young designer. When discussing his legacy and the people he admired he mentioned iconic brands like Ralph Lauren and Armani that have created an entire world and aesthetic for their brands. When talking about Ralph Lauren, he explains that in the past it may have taken 6 seconds to describe the brand. But now when you say, Ralph Lauren, all you have to say is Ralph Lauren and you can close your eyes and imagine the look. For Wes Gordon “To be a 10th of that great of a storyteller would be a dream”
While the Wes Gordon brand is still very young compared to the veteran fashion houses, we see a designer with a clear DNA that permeates through each of his designs. In the beginning, it was about experimentation, but now we are getting properly acquainted with Wes Gordon. While the now 29-year-old is quite the force to be reckoned with, it’s safe to say that with patience and perseverance he is one step closer to the day where all we’ll have to say is Wes Gordon.