Empowerment. Gabriela Hearst SS23

The runway photos tell only part of the story about Gabriela Hearst’s spring-summer 2023 show. Just beyond the picture frame, the runway was lined with members of the Resistance Revival Chorus. They sang “This Joy,” a gospel song written by Pastor Shirley Caesar. Joy has been the buzzword of the week; few designers have failed to mention it. But only Hearst booked this choir, and the singers more than delivered on the song’s promise. It was a feel-great moment, made more so by the diverse group of friends that Hearst cast, from the former president of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards to the young climate activist Xiye Bastida to the anti-toxic shock syndrome advocate Lauren Wasser. Hearst has woven female empowerment into her brand DNA. She likes being a connector, hooking up one woman on a mission with another, and in the process side-stepping the male dominated systems that disadvantage us. This season she made those intentions more explicit in the clothes. The opening series of dresses were constructed of black jersey fixed with molded gold leather whose ruffled raw edges extended beyond the shape of the torso. These nodded in the direction of the Yves Saint Laurent gold breastplates made by Claude Lalanne, but the vibe here was more Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Later on came a pair of knit pieces inset with crocheted segments in fiery shades of red and orange, and these too conjured thoughts of warrior women who dared to approach the flame. Heart’s friend Cecile Richards’s book is called Make Trouble, don’t forget.

The collection was a showcase for similarly fine handicrafts. Soft ruched leather for a pair of looks worn by the ’90s stars Kirsty Hume and Carolyn Murphy; three-dimensional gold thread embroideries on an ivory dress and well-tailored suit; silk ladder stitch knit dresses as gossamer as spiderwebs. A gold version worn with a matching poncho was especially striking. Hearst came out for her bow wearing a cap stitched with the logo of Sound Future. Her friend Brandy Schultz, who walked in the show, is the co-founder of the non-profit, which seeks to “measure, discover, and deploy meaningful environmental solutions for the live event industry.” Fashion is in need of a meaningful environmental solution. It’s a long way from positive intent to measurable change, but Hearst is making the right connections.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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