– Carolina Herrera

by Nicole Phelps


News broke last week that tonight’s Carolina Herrera show would be her last. She’s stepping into an ambassadorial role at the company she founded in 1980 and making room for creative director Wes Gordon, who has quietly been designing at her side.

Herrera’s departure comes during a season of change for New York Fashion Week. Mid-career designers are decamping for Paris, and younger talents are reconsidering the usefulness of expensive, twice-yearly fashion shows in a digital age that requires constant new content. At 79, Herrera is one of the last of the establishment designers to bow out. Among her peers, only Ralph Lauren is still in the game. Calvin Klein was sitting in the front row at the Museum of Modern Art alongside Herrera’s husband and daughters. The changing of the guard chez Herrera is reflective of wider shifts beyond the runway. Tony sportswear and society gowns—the stuff the designer has trafficked in for decades—is not in the ascendant. Gordon will have his work cut out for him making the Herrera codes relevant to a culture dominated by athleisure and streetwear. But let’s hope he tries. We’ve seen enough of tracksuits and logos.

Herrera is never not immaculately put together—the picture-perfect representative of her brand in a crisp white shirt and a smart black skirt or trousers. The show started and finished with an homage to that signature style. In between there were other Herrera-isms, if perhaps not as many as one might have expected. Whimsical, wild cat prints filled in for the charming florals she favors. Herrera has always been fond of three-dimensional, tremblant embroideries, and we saw feathers here and beaded fringe, as well. She also loves an awning stripe, and we got one in the form of the show-closing strapless gown. The finale was testament to the power of simplicity: a parade of white button-downs; wide belts; bold, contrast-color taffeta ball skirts (pockets included, naturally); and evening slippers.

White jacket–clad members of Herrera’s atelier, who watched the show from the museum’s mezzanine level, joined the designer on the runway for her bow. It was a moving scene. Then Gordon arrived and presented his boss with two dozen (three dozen?) red roses and a kiss on the cheek. A graceful handover if ever there was one.

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