2011 February 11

Go Wes (Young Man!)

Wes Gordon in his FiDi studio Wes Gordon in his FiDi studio
Giorgio Niro
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(NEW YORK) From his native Atlanta to London to Manhattan’s financial district, where he now hangs his hat, the charming Southerner Wes Gordon has been warming the stoniest fash-fatigued hearts with the trove of tailored basics that bears his name. Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Harrod’s? Already on board. BY ASHLEY BAKER

How old are you—13?
I’m actually 13 and a half. No, I turned 24 in July.

A Southern boy obsessed with fashion… What were you like as a kid?
I know—it’s weird, right? Especially because I went to a very traditional prep school in Atlanta. We wore striped ties on Wednesdays, and then khakis and navy polos the rest of the days of the week. I was definitely an anomaly, but I’m grateful for that. When you’re fighting against the current, it makes you very confident that you’re pursuing what you really want to do.

You attended Central Saint Martins. Did you experience culture shock in London?
London’s a fun city, and people ask me if I miss it, and I do, but I don’t miss living there. It’s hard if you don’t have $10,000,000,000 in your checking account. But that was my first experience of living in a city. The art galleries are free! There are special, constant activities.

How did London change your aesthetic?
Growing up, I loved Erté and Valentino books—my aesthetic was very dramatic, fancy and evening-y. When I went to London, I started looking at real clothes—how people actually dress. 

You spent summers working with Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta. How were they different?
You go to Oscar’s stu-dio, and it’s how you imagine a couture workshop to be. Bolts of beautiful fabric, fit models, Oscar, air-kisses, and flowers. Tom Ford is just as sexy and great, but it’s the menswear version. Ebony furniture, black pony chairs. They’ll have a three-day meeting about a zipper. Tom was working on his movie [A Single Man] while I was there, and there were about five people in the company at the time, so I was involved with a lot of things.

What did you do for your graduation show at Saint Martins?
It’s an art school—and a weird, avant-garde art school at that. So if you want to do anything to get attention or praise, you have to go over-the-top, which is kind of against my instinct, but I did it. I made my final collection out of blown glass, based on the work of artist Dale Chihuly. It took a year, but I got that out of my system. Now, I love a slick black jacket.

Was it assumed you’d come to New York to set up shop?
Totally. There’s an energy here you don’t find anywhere else. The garment district’s incredible—there are skyscrapers that have fabric reps, button dealers, and zipper stores on every floor. We also do all our production here, which I’m really proud of.

You showed your first line a year ago for Fall 2010.
It was snowing sideways. We had a big, beautiful two-bedroom suite at the St. Regis. I went to the window every five minutes to see if it was sticking. People would come in, sit on the couch, and drink hot chocolate. I’d show a few jackets at a time. Oscar de la Renta came right at 5:30 as we started to pack up. He’s the nicest man alive. Afterward, I crashed and slept for two days.