The Meteoric Rise of Designer Wes Gordon

Fashion designer Wes Gordon
“He’s got the talent behind him and the money,” says Kelly Golden, owner of Neapolitan, of Gordon. “It’s a winning formula.”

When the promising young designer Wes Gordon launched his fashion line in New York in 2009, it wasn’t long before his elegant, finely crafted clothes caught the eye of buyers from Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods.

The 25-year-old Gordon, who was born in Chicago, also attracted attention here, but in an unexpected location: the greens of Evanston Golf Club. There, Terry Athas, who bought an early stake in Gordon’s company, mentioned his investment to fellow golfers, like John Ward, the owner of Bistronomic. Now Athas, the senior managing director for Mesirow Financial, estimates that two-thirds of Gordon’s investors, including Ward, have a Chicago connection.

Gordon has his father, Steve, to thank: The proud papa and Melrose Park native talked up his son’s success to Athas, an old football buddy from Holy Cross High School. Athas invested and spread the word.

Athas admits he’s no fashion maven (“It’s not my bailiwick. I walk into Syd Jerome and they tell me what to wear”), but he figured the intelligent Gordon—who graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and interned at Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford—was a wise risk.

Athas’s instincts were right. Bergdorf Goodman recently picked up Gordon’s sophisticated Catherine Deneuve–inspired fall collection (see “Fall 2011 Fashion: Strong Silhouettes with Trim Tailoring” and “Fall 2011 Fashion: Ferocious Fur and Luscious Leather”), and it is available locally at Saks and at Neapolitan in Winnetka, where women have nabbed Gordon’s $2,550 camel cashmere double-breasted coat and $2,395 navy wool jacket with black leather sleeves before the items arrived in the store.

“His attention to detail and workmanship are impeccable,” says Neapolitan’s owner, Kelly Golden, who also credits Gordon’s business acumen. “He’s got the talent behind him and the money. It’s a winning formula.”

Gordon, meanwhile, is grateful for the local backing, noting that Chicago represents one of his top markets and is a favorite place to visit. “We start with a group of four,” Gordon says of his friends and backers, “and it becomes 14 as the night progresses.”

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