There are some fashion names that engage with empty activism as a branding exercise, and then there are brands like Gabriela Hearst. Since her eponymous label’s inception in 2015, Hearst has made genuine, meaningful advocacy a core part of her label’s identity, whether it’s leading the charge on conversations about sustainability, or launching high-end ‘merch’ to raise money for Planned Parenthood.
For Spring/Summer 2023, a collection she unveiled in Manhattan today, Hearst doubled down on her commitment to change. Alongside supermodels models Paloma Elsesser, Kirsty Hume, and Carolyn Murphy, Hearst cast former Planned Parenthood president Cecilie Richard, climate change activist Xiye Bastida, and model-turned-toxic shock syndrome awareness campaigner Lauren Wasser. Models walked down a runway surrounded by gospel singers from the Resistance Revival Chorus, who bill themselves as “a collective of women and non-binary singers, who join together to breathe joy and song into the resistance”. That idea, of resistance through joy, was so prescient that the Chorus performed a song called “This Joy”.
“Resistance through joy” is actually an apt description for the clothes themselves, some of which felt as if they’d been created for battle. The opening looks featured gold breast plates, affixed onto soft black knitted dresses. Gold was recurring throughout the collection, be it slinky slip dresses, strappy flat sandals, or delicate embroidery on sharp suiting. Gold is strong and solid but turns soft and malleable when held to the flame, and fire was another key motif for S/S ‘23.
Hearst’s signature oversized knit ponchos (handsewn in her native Uruguay) came in orange, and yellow, pantsuits were bold red, and fiery patterns were hand-sewn onto full-length crochet and knit dresses. The latter design evoked the burning of incense, a shape Hearst began drawing when she became inspired reading about the poet Sappho. Labelled as “the Tenth Muse”, Sappho’s creative energy was clearly charging through Hearst as she pulled together her latest runway offering. The power of the divine feminine was palpable.