At a time when fashion is in a state of flux, we're looking to the industry's next generation of influencers as a guiding light. This New York Fashion Week, Refinery29's Future of American Fashion series is highlighting the designers, brands, and retailers we're betting on big. The future starts here.
To hear Gabriela Hearst tell it, when she started her eponymous line in 2015, “there were too many boring clothes.” The designer isn’t passing judgement for the sake of it, as she includes the former iteration of herself with her contemporary label Candela in this lot. Hearst had been hard at work on the far-flung bohemian brand since 2004, but as it got bigger, she remembers asking herself, “Why the hell are we doing this?” “My heart wasn't there,” she recalls.
Driven by her own desire for true luxury, Hearst started to think about what was missing in fashion, and from her own wardrobe. “Needed is a strong word, but I was looking for a collection that was truly quality-driven — quality materials, quality from the social component of who's making your product — and I wanted it to be timeless, something that tells the story of the past, present, and future,” she says of her lofty ambitions. “I wanted my pieces to have desire, and desire is timeless.”
Fashion For Real Life
Her upbringing on a ranch in Uruguay inspired Hearst to create an minimalist collection made up of the finest fabrics: rich Italian and English double-faced cashmeres, soft leathers, and fluid silks (everything is handmade in Europe). “There was a uniform in the way my father dressed,” she says. “It's not at all about calling attention. It's about driving attention to certain parts of the outfit.” Now two-years-old, her line is often compared to the work of Phoebe Philo for Céline or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen for The Row. But unlike those two labels, where you might have to buy new pieces every season, Hearst imagines her clothes as being worn, loved, and kept, even being passed down to future generations. “I like the idea of keeping clothing as something that you want to give to your children, or someone you love,” she says.
Despite Hearst’s own privileged fashion ambitions — she’s married to media executive Austin Hearst, grandson of William Randolph Hearst — she says she caters to “a very active, working woman.” “I think of a woman’s closet every season and I want to be sure that everything is needed: your work outfit, your going out outfit," she says, admitting she doesn't follow trends when designing. "There isn't a lot of gowns because in the active woman’s life, those events are getting more and more rare.”
Sustainability & Activism
Though the clothes aren’t cheap (a see-through herringbone knit polo goes for £475, while a V-neck cashmere double-breasted coat is £3,675), Hearst prides herself on creating perhaps the first sustainable luxury company. “I think the transparency of luxury is what is important,” she contends. “There’s not trickery, this is the price that it costs for us. These are the materials we’re using, these are the people making our clothing, and this is the margin we need to have in order to run a sustainable business where people can make money. There was never a price strategy, and I think from the beginning honest luxury is the best description I’ve heard of my brand, because that’s what we’re trying for.”
Being socially-minded extends past production and fair wages for Hearst, too, as she has been a loud-spoken advocate for climate change (her knits and suiting are often made with deadstock fabrics, eliminating the carbon footprint of new materials) and women’s rights, even partnering with Planned Parenthood on a merino wool ram ovaries sweater that she wore to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. this past January. “I’m a designer and the company has my name on it. I have to be outspoken,” she says of her newfound responsibility. This mindset was even seen in her most recent designs: for fall 2017, civil rights activist Angela Davis and Democratic senators Tammy Duckworth and Catherine Cortez Masto served as inspiration. “What we’re doing for good we’re going to keeping doing, period.”