"She could beat you up," says 25-year-old Wes Gordon of his spring 2013 woman. "There's still something feminine there, something quite chic and elegant, but she has kind of an icy-ness to her." Draped in black French lace, tied into corset-detail dresses and donning pointy black or navy Manolo Blahniks on her feet, Gordon's spring sorceress has definitely got a feisty side. However, looking at Gordon—6-foot-4, dressed in sharp slacks and a smart striped button-down, an innocent smile always on his face—it's hard to imagine him having a dark side. But the Atlanta-born, Tribeca-based 25-year-old suggests that his Southern heritage may be the culprit for his sometimes-eerie aesthetic. "I'm completely obsessed with the Gothic idea of the South and Savannah. There's a nostalgia and romance about it that you don't find in too many other places. Like Anne Rice ideas of New Orleans," he says.
Gordon launched his line in 2009 after graduating from London's Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. His luxe fabrics, sophisticated approach to design, and refined sensibility (splashed with a little bit of that London cool that New York so craves) instantly gained industry attention. This past January, he tied with Misha Nonoo for the Rising Star Award. The Swarovski Collective awarded him sponsorship for the spring 2013 season (their crystal-embellished yarn will be a feature in his new collection) and he's up for the coveted 2012 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award. Not to mention his clothes have been worn by the likes of Michelle Obama and Lena Dunham.
But don't call him an "It boy." "I'm not into that," quips the designer, shaking his mop of auburn hair. "I think our clothes have a timelessness to them and I'm much more into that. I want them to be pieces that you love as much in five years as you do today," says the designer, noting that he respects work of enduring talents like Oscar de la Renta, for whom he interned for two summers. "We strive for a freshness and relevance, but we're not looking to make something that's going to become obsolete. So no, I don't want to be an ‘It boy.'"
Merging classic elements like hand-worked dresses and fluid, wide-leg trousers with edgy touches like lace cut-outs, sheer "eyelash" chiffon pants, screen-painted patterns, and a hand-drawn swan print, Gordon's spring collection is filled with clothes that women will covet now and love later. The designer admittedly hates warm-weather dressing. "In fall, you have these beautiful rich fabrics—long coats, high collars, furs, leathers, heavy embroideries and velvets. But spring just has cutesy cotton dresses that look insignificant," he explains, grimacing. "So this season, we really worked hard at developing fabrics and looks have the same excitement and luxury that you'd find in fall clothes. But you can wear them when it's 90 degrees outside." Case in point: his Italian scuba fabric (i.e., super-high-end neoprene) and his rich palette of mint-blue, vermillion, ivory, and black. There will be a few feathers, too, which tie into his vintage pagan theme. "With the swans and the feathers, we were really playing with the idea of this high priestess, this siren," he explains.
Gordon's spring collection will make its debut in a presentation at the Baryshnikov Center on Monday, September 10. And, while the young designer admits that he's slightly nervous ("I'm the most anxious person you'll ever meet. I'm sure I have the wrong anxious state for this job," he laughs), we have a pretty good feeling the up-and-comer's clothes will be nothing less than black magic.