Wes Gordon: A designer at the top of his game
Wes Gordon’s career might give even the most accomplished person a complex. At only 25, the Central Saint Martins grad has worked under Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta, garners rave reviews from editors and buyers for his successful namesake label, collaborated with Manolo Blahnik for his spring 2012 show, designed an upcoming capsule collection with Jones New York, and just nabbed the prestigious Fashion Group International Rising Star Award for his sophisticated designs and sharp tailoring. And yet, this go-getter insists he parties and watches reality TV like the rest of us (“‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ is my least favorite; ‘Beverly Hills’ is the best,” he says. “It’s over and I’m really upset.”) To top it all off, this all-star Atlanta native is the perfect gentleman. We sat down with Gordon to talk street cred, Rooney Mara and his five-year plan — because, of course, he has one.
Congrats on the win. You’re on everyone’s one-to-watch list lately. How do you stay so poised?
Well, now I’m scared. I was fine until you said that. [Laughs] There’s no time to think about anything except your to-do list. It’s just crazy busy. I’m rapidly getting grey hair.
Well, you’ve got a lot of hair.
I do have a lot of hair. I’m going to have a lot of grey hair.
For 25, your clothes have a mature sensibility to them. Have you always been more sophisticated than your peers?
I’ve always been an old soul. When I was in preschool, I used to insist on wearing suspenders and ties to school. I definitely have an aesthetic emerging.
And it’s apparently going in a darker direction for fall. What influenced this?
Our collection this season is kind of Edwardian/“Dragon Tattoo” — like “Great Expectations” meets Rooney Mara, because we have a lot of interesting historical cuts, some great peplum shapes and long, floor- length coats. One of the nice things is that you get to design fall/winter collections when it’s cold out. So for a lot of it you’re walking around and it’s chilly and you think, “What do you want to wear?” You want something a little darker, something mysterious. A high collar standing around your face, a jacket buttoned, long sleeves that go down to your knuckles, something with attitude and edge.
You’re often called an uptown or society designer. But do you ever just want people to say you have street cred, too?
I live on Bowery and Bond. I’m totally a Downtowner. [Laughs] We [are sold in] Kirna Zabete, which is a supercool store in SoHo, and we really have a diverse clientele. I’m grateful to anyone who buys anything, wherever they may live.
Jones New York wanted you to update their classic workwear line. How did you tackle that?
The idea was to take a little bit of what I do in terms of tailoring and cool materials, and to do a collection that addresses how the modern young woman wants her wardrobe to look. What she wants to wear to the office, what she wants to wear on the weekends.
So what does she want to wear to the office?
Well, that’s interesting. It’s one thing to work in fashion where you have such creative freedom. But someone at a bank has a strict dress code. So we came up with options like a short sleeved, pencil skirted suit. There’s almost a Gwyneth Paltrow, “Great Expectations” clean vibe to the line.
Speaking of work, how would you like your line to advance?
My goal has always been to build a company that stays relevant. Going to art school in London I was around a lot of cool girls. You see them dressing in, like, Zara leggings and a vintage T-shirt and they’d throw on a vintage YSL jacket that they got from their mum or a flea market. And I think that’s so cool — the blazer that someday a woman’s daughter steals from her. There’s something to these pieces. I think that if you can make something elegant, it stays elegant forever.
So what’s the five-year plan?
Growing the collection, we’re going to do resorts and pre-fall, accessories, and hopefully menswear, so that I can steal some clothes from the office. I want to do furniture, you name it — I want to do everything.
You grew up in Atlanta. How do your Southern roots influence your design?
When a plane lands in Atlanta I get a little Southern accent back. It’s really an aesthetic culture in the South. There’s definitely a romance there. Everyone’s yard is a work of art. The gardens are beautiful, the houses are beautiful; there’s just something very pretty about it all. I love it.
Hanging on his inspiration board
“A face up on my wall is Rooney Mara. Then I have an amazing picture from World Of Interiors magazine of this great room in a house in England that is kind of dilapidated with old wooden plank floors and a big, high, grand ceiling with an old chandelier hanging from it. I like to look at this and think, “Who’s about to walk into this room? What is she wearing in this kind of abandoned, slightly eerie, but romantic grand country manor in England?”