NEW YORK — When Carolina Herrera was at the helm of her namesake brand, its sensibility was akin to Manhattans and negroni: grown-up, timeless, unsentimental but with just enough sweetness to elicit a throaty laugh. Herrera stepped down last season and handed the reins to Wes Gordon who showed his first collection Monday morning. It was more of a rum punch: a lot of unnecessary sweetness.
Which is not to say that Gordon’s spring 2019 collection wasn’t pretty. It was delightful, feminine and charming. It is a decidedly younger, fizzier sensibility for the brand. But like a freshman at their first big campus party, the spring 2019 collection speaks of overindulgence, over doing it and taking things over the top. There are only so many flower prints and ruched sleeves and flowing trains and jelly-bean colored appliqués that a woman’s wardrobe can handle before she begins to look like she’s playing dress-up rather than simply getting dressed.
As Gordon’s models walked through the dignified salons of the New York Historical Society, the joyfulness of the clothes came on like a roar. Juxtaposed against their sober surroundings, the dull grey of the rainy urban landscape and the almost atonal soundtrack of city life, the clothes were a kaleidoscope of color — a high-volume chorus of happiness.
In mood, the collection is the equivalent of a smiley face. Message delivered, but where’s the nuance? For a brand like Carolina Herrera, which is so rooted in urbane elegance and chicness, one hopes for more subtlety, a bit more finesse. These clothes call to mind the kind of woman who dots her “i” with a heart. And sorry, but never trust a woman (or a man) who uses a heart as punctuation; perpetual sunshine is only good in theory.
There are a host of terrific ingredients in the new Carolina Herrera: splendid craftsmanship, a keen eye for color, a willingness to craft clothes that speak to life in cities beyond the East Coast. And Gordon takes the signature crisp white shirt of the brand’s namesake and turns it into peasant dresses. He cuts it from white eyelet; he crops it. He makes it into something new.
Tamp down the sweetness, root the collection in something a bit more solid than meringue. Throw a splash of club soda into that highball. Women have plenty to smile about. But it’s exhausting keeping a smile on your face all the time.