©Jamie McCarthy

Wes Gordon had surrounded himself with flowers: rich, orange bouquets dotted about his work studio; and the same splash of sunshine in the new Carolina Herrera boutique as his concept store on Madison Avenue. The theme of dots and summer blooms for Spring/Summer 2020 was presented during New York Fashion Week in a transparent bubble of a tent in the garden of Battery Park downtown.

#SuzyNYFW: Carolina Herrera In “Super Bloom”-1
©Bjorn Wallander

“I love this collection – I remember it as a day in June or July that was in super bloom,” he said. “It was happening all around California and I wanted to create a spring collection that felt a bit the same way – an eruption and explosion of colour and flowers. There are several iterations of that in the collection – the big, bold gestures or fabric done in cotton; the big roses. Here’s a shirtdress in beautiful cotton; there’s navy gabardine with a rose appliquéd; and if it’s linen, then there are white roses.”

The show itself started with white shirts worn with colourful floral skirts – the essence of the original Caroline Herrera look. No wonder that the founder designer, was beaming in the front row.

“I’m in heaven because I have someone perfect in Wes,” said the Venezuelan aristocrat, now 80, who retired last year after dressing a litany of First Ladies, from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Michele Obama, and building a powerful fragrance empire with the Spanish beauty group, Puig.

#SuzyNYFW: Carolina Herrera In “Super Bloom”-2

What strengthened the freshness of the new show was Wes Gordon’s vision of dots and checks, where angular and circular shapes gave a sharp edge to the sweet flowers. There is often a feeling with these generational takeovers in fashion that a fresh designer still wants to have the approval of the mother client, as well as her daughter. And why not?

#SuzyNYFW: Carolina Herrera In “Super Bloom”-3

Instead of fighting the founder’s visual history, the young designer is aiming to follow it, but in a more youthful way. “I feel that is the spectrum of our house is the beautiful cotton shirt; that big, gorgeous, easy skirt; and then the polka dots – mixed with the fabulousness of Mrs Herrera’s Eighties glam,” he said.

#SuzyNYFW: Carolina Herrera In “Super Bloom”-4

The show was divided into definite categories, but the designs were shown sprinkled around as in a well-planned garden, rather than in blocks of colour or shape. A fine example was a blue dress smothered with tiny flowers, giving the effect of a starry night sky.

Wes Gordon explained his “youth pattern”: “The first thought every season is colour – that’s my number-one thing,” he said. “My mission for Herrera is just beautiful colours, and I know that’s a subjective thing to say, but to me it’s pigment-rich. They are clear colours; they’re not chalky, they’re not muddy; not dirty, sad, or serious. It’s a beautiful blue, a sunshine yellow, or a fabulous pink. It’s the colours of energy. So creating a palette is always the first thing that I do.“

#SuzyNYFW: Carolina Herrera In “Super Bloom”-5

He continued by defining the essence of the floral energy. “I was really just thinking of not just flowers, but flowers in the most exuberant sense,” he said. “That’s why the ‘Super Bloom’ was really interesting. It has a lot to do with global warming, but it actually happened because of the drought in California. All these wild flowers – from lilies to poppies – in an effort to sustain their species, overproduced seeds in the hope that 5% of them would make it. And because now our climate is like this, the next year in California there was crazy flooding and rain, so instead of just a few of those seeds flowering, 99% of them sprouted! So from this kind of desolate area, all of a sudden you had just an absolute eruption of powerful colour. Flowers and blooms and joy! That’s what we always think about in fittings. We want to feel joyful.”

#SuzyNYFW: Carolina Herrera In “Super Bloom”-6