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Thalia Bonas

Carolina Herrera’s Creative Director Wes Gordon joined Joshua Abramovich and Laura Perlmutter in a riveting conversation about authenticity and creativity within the fashion industry as a part of our star-studded Brown Fashion Week Speaker Series. 

Gordon grew up in Atlanta and became infatuated with fashion design as a teenager. He explained that he would constantly “draw and doodle people in clothes” and would work tirelessly to be able to access fashion, by streaming Dior shows or buying any fashion book he could. As soon as he realized that fashion could be a career it became his “secret goal”, and he knew immediately that it was what he wanted to pursue. 

Attending Central St Martins allowed Gordon to further cultivate his love of fashion. He explained that he knew he would work in New York, so it was “exciting to experience another industry capital in another part of the world”. However, Gordon emphasized that “there is not one required path to get to where you want to go”: “no two journeys are the same, you don’t have to go to fashion school to be a fashion designer”. While his experience as CSM was incredibly rewarding, he also “learned a lot from real-world experience and internships”. This emphasis that one’s path to success does not need to be immediately evident or linear struck a chord with both the moderators and me. I think that all those watching were able to exhale slightly as Gordon’s radiance, confidence and conviction reminded us that though the road to success in the creative industry may be challenging, it is definitely possible. 

When asked to give advice to emerging designers, Gordon replied “never try to measure yourself against your peers or other people. Focus on what you do that is unique and different instead of trying to be all things to all people”.   

Gordon was also careful not to sugarcoat the challenges of working in the fashion industry: “you have to love the industry because it’s really hard, both as a startup and as a forty-year-old company, there are tough scenarios no matter what”.  His honesty was refreshing, as he explained that “as a young brand, right next to a superbrand, the customer isn't cutting you slack for your lack of resources. You need to make a product that is just as compelling and less expensive, it’s a really daunting task”.  

Gordon also spoke to finding the balance between following one's own artistic vision and working under the name of an established, revered brand such as Carolina Herrera. He explained that as he started as the Creative Director, his approach to the brand was one of “renovation”. He described Hererra as a building with beautiful bones, in need of renovation but where the parameters were clearly in place. Gordon posited that though some people might think that creating under a brand might be constricting, people are “often at their most creative when there are already existing parameters”. At Herrera, he sought to “know what is right for the place in the same way as a renovation for a house”, with the ultimate goal to “make clothes from women who want to look beautiful”. As the creative director of Herrera for the past 8 years, Gordon seeks to create clothes “that amplify how you are inside”, and embody “a spirit that doesn't apply to geographic region, body type or age”.  

By describing his journey as a designer, viewers were able to get an indication of just how challenging the fashion industry can be but also how rewarding and incredible it is. It is hard to believe that the successful, charismatic Wes Gordon once experienced “imposter syndrome”, but his acknowledgement of that feeling helps young designers realize that they are not alone. Listening to Wes Gordon talk was a privilege, as he candidly discussed his journey both independently and with Carolina Herrera, inspiring students more generally in the process.

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