Gabriela Hearst in her latest show of hers for her namesake label, and the last before debuting with her night job as Chloé’s new creative director in Paris, Hearst redid the ideas of the 11th century philosopher and mystic, Saint Hildegard of Bingen. The result was a classy and composed collection that managed to be contemporary and cool, unveiled on Tuesday night in New York. Hearst smartly juxtaposed the clothes in a suitably gritty show video, shot in a light-filled riverside warehouse with corrugated iron walls underneath the Williamsburg Bridge, in a lush piece of direction by Alexandre de Betak.
Each look expressed a new maturity and conviction in Hearst’s work, which Hildegard – an abbess who corresponded with popes and emperors – would surely have appreciated.
Opening with flowing cloaks; long knitted dresses and some excellent trench coats – finished with shoulder knots or hoods. For day, showing stylish Swiss lace frocks; Aran sweater cocktail dresses or precise leather macramé looks worn over polo necks. For evening, flowing satin dresses over flared white pants or snazzy thick-ribbed knit cocktails all looked great.
“St. Hildegard was a composer, poet, philosopher, mystic, linguist, botanist, and medical theorist. If she were born a man we would all know her name as we know Leonardo da Vinci’s. Her visions that started at an early age began her spiritual journey that can only be made with true passion. She saw that the answer was in the Green Power of Nature,” argued Hearst in her program notes.
After seeing her 12-tear-old daughter Mia placing flowers in her art book, and then carefully replicating them, Hearst used these as prints – “knitted and crocheted with two non-for-profit women empowering co-ops we work with in Uruguay and Bolivia.” The results were some great woolen ensembles and charming skirts and tanks.
Mia’s prints were also the basis for the patterns in the Swiss lace and leather macramé looks, climaxing with classy town coats, whose lower halves morphed into lace. Cool ethnic blanket looks, from patchwork ponchos to country weekend coats referenced Hearst’s youth in Uruguay, adding high color to the collection.
A true polyglot, Hildegard wrote three volumes of theology; two volumes on natural medicines and cures; invented her own language and composed sacred monophony – there are more surviving chants by her than any composer from the Middle Ages.
The designer’s soundtrack was an original composition too. By Uruguayan artist Juan Campodonico, adding a quick step beat to the show video, wihich ended with Hildegard Hearst taking an extended tour down the massive warehouse.
Sauntering out through the battered doors onto the East River, in a great symbolic exit, as she sets off on the next stage of her career – conquering Paris.