Left: Wes Gordon blazer and pants. Right: Wes Gordon jacket and pants
Wes Gordon, a 25-year-old, Chicago-born fashion designer, has been busy. His spring 2012 collection of clean-lined, ladylike dresses and tailored separates debuted at New York Fashion Week in September. Since then, he’s been making quick stops in major cities, from San Francisco to London, for trunk shows and custom fittings with clients.
Gordon visits Chicago this week for a showing of his spring designs at Neapolitan Collection (715 Elm St., Winnetka; 847-441-7784, neapolitanonline.com) from Thursday, November 3 through Saturday, November 5. (Customers can schedule time to meet with the designer on Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4 by calling the store.)
We caught up with Gordon on October 21, during another recent Chicago trip, to talk about where he’s from, how he’s building his business, and what’s stopping him from adopting a puppy.
Tailoring is important to you. Is there anything in particular that you’ll work with women on—in terms of fit—during a trunk show?
My eye goes to [a woman’s] face first, to see her reaction. You can instantly tell if she likes how she looks—or not. You know whether to continue the conversation, or to grab another piece right away. So many of my clients have very clear ideas about what they like, what looks good on them, and what works for them. I learn just as much from them as they do from me.
You’re young, and your line is still getting its start. Are women familiar with you before they come to the shows?
This is my second year, and my fourth collection. I’m starting to get a lot of repeat business [in Chicago], after being here a couple times now, but each season I continue to meet new people.
I do really well at Neapolitan Collection. It really vibes with my clients. I do a lot of trunk shows for Saks [Fifth Avenue], and I go to Neiman Marcus in Atlanta. I’m going to London. All of which makes it really frustrating, because I want to get a puppy. I have a poor little puppy sitting on hold, and I can never get her because it’s like, ‘This week doesn’t work because we’re going to London.’ That’s my life dilemma right now [laughs].
Have you shown your collections in London before?
I sell at Harrods. We’re not showing the collection this time, but we’re having an editors’ luncheon and some meetings. I lived [in London] for four years and went to school [at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design].
Designers from Central Saint Martins seem to get out of school and get to work right away. Are any of your classmates working in fashion now?
We were graduating during a funny time—which is still going on—where there weren’t many jobs. You’re kind of swimming against the current when you start your own business. I threw caution into the wind and did it, but started very small, with a few jackets. I showed them in a hotel room in New York, during a blizzard. An unbearable blizzard, actually [laughs]. That was my first presentation—a fall collection that we were showing in February.
A lot of your investors are here in Chicago, right?
We have a good Chicago investor base, mainly because I was born here and my family lives here. [See our September story, “Flash Gordon,” for more on Gordon’s ties to Chicago’s business community.]
It feels like the press in Chicago and Atlanta are doing battle, in a way, about where you came from.
I was born in Chicago, but I pretty much grew up in Atlanta. I went to school in Atlanta. It’s really convenient—when I’m in Chicago, I’m from Chicago. When I’m in Atlanta, I’m from Atlanta. And I actually lived briefly in Minneapolis. So when we do a Minneapolis trunk show—I’ll be from Minneapolis. [laughs]
Photographs: Brian Doben (top left), Sean Kennedy Santos (top right)