If one is to round up all of the major fashion designers in the business into a Class of 2019 yearbook, then the caption accompanying Gabriela Hearst’s photo could very well read as “Most likely to change the world“. It may seem like a hyperbolic statement to some but the Uruguayan-born designer is really that cool kid in school who’s going to start a movement. And we’re with her.
Just take a look at her recent Spring/Summer 2020 show for her eponymous label as an example. American Vogue reported that it is the first brand in the business to stage a carbon-neutral show. In an industry that is accustomed to runway shows rivalling a Vegas production, the practices that Hearst put in motion were drastic. The power was cut down. No electricity was used for the models’ hair – yeap, no blowouts, just sleek pulled back dos. She even had sustainability consultancy EcoAct to calculate the energy emissions.
“I love what I do but I have to find ways that I’m not adding to the problem,” she told Female in an e-mail interview, hinting at the reckless use of energy among industry players today. She was speaking to us just before the launch of the pop-up event for her bags at On Pedder from Oct 25 to Nov 15. “I thought this was the best thing that really engages me toward the show. If we don’t know our impact we can’t reduce it. The goal is to set an industry standard.” For a self-professed feminist and environmentalist, that was Hearst’s activist moment on the Fashion Week stage.
Living sustainably is second nature to Hearst who grew up on her family’s 17,000-acre ranch in an isolated part of Uruguay. She once quipped to Surface magazine that when she was born, there were more animals than people. “We were sustainable out of utilitarian purpose,” she stated matter-of-factly in our interview. “Our home was built in the 1800s by my family. It was made to last; we had wind energy, then solar panels decades ago because the grid had just come to where we were. Being in contact with nature from a very young age makes you understand her power and why we have to respect it.”
The Bags Coming To Singapore
That holistic ethos is encapsulated in her four-year-old namesake fashion label. It adopts a thoughtful and slower process of creating fashion – one that is grounded in care and detail and purpose. In short, she creates things that are meant to last. If all that Zen talk sounds like Hearst & co. make boring fashion, you’d be wrong. She makes some truly desirable suits and parlays her bohemian-meets-minimalist aesthetic with such a light hand. She also experiments with fabrications and has been known to use organic aloe linen that is said to moisturise the skin and sources for deadstock fabric from cashmere specialist Loro Piana.
Her architectural and geometric bags started as a limited edition series in 2016 and has now morphed into a cult favourite among the discerning crowd. It is a good starting point to get a glimpse of how her psyche as a woke designer works. These bags are neither flamboyant nor shout “snap me”. Instead, they possess a beautiful and artistic quality that makes them hard to miss. Her three-week-long pop-up at On Pedder’s Scotts Square flagship marks the first time her collections will be physically sold here. To curb the use of resources, the designer prefers to sell her handbags directly to customers, while producing the same revenue. That further drives the exclusivity of her bags,
Seven of her bags will be on sale. These include her maiden design, the Nina, which Hearst, 42, describes as her “good fortune” bag. Indeed, it was the bag that really put her name on the radar. What turned out as a gift for close pals quickly came with an extensive waiting list. According to The Telegraph, there could be 1,500 names in the queue at any one time.
Then there is the Patsy which is inspired by the lunch boxes of women entering the workforce during the 1940s, which could very well be a cheeky commentary on Post-War female empowerment. The latest offering in the repertoire is the Walkwoman, a structured shoulder bag which is a riff on the retro Sony Walkman. The frame of the bag features a metal body crafted with precious stones like howlite, malachite and lapis lazuli. When Hearst does nostalgia, it is chic not ironic.
The Spring/Summer 2020 Show
Such details explain the limited run of her bag designs as well as the lengthy duration it takes to craft them. According to Hearst, the production for each bag takes at least three months to complete. That could also explain why these bags can command a starting price of $2,990 for a calfskin minaudiere and fetch up to $28,000 for a full croco one.
It is no surprise then that Hearst’s name has been spoken in the same breath as other female trailblazers in the industry like Phoebe Philo and Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski. For one, she knows exactly what the women of today in these modern times look for in their fashion choices. She said: “[My brand is] for women of action. Our clients have dynamic life. Professionals that are always looking to develop themselves further. Our clothes are armours for their daily life. For me, it is the women first and the clothes second.”
Perhaps her quote in an interview with The Washington Post in January this year best sums up her maxim. She said: “There’s not that many women designing for women. I always say this as a joke, but it’s kind of true: I understand water retention. Right? Right. Our bodies change through the month. They change through our lifetime. And I think being in the body of a woman gives you an advantage.”
Can we get a fist pump?