Skip to main content

Recently I encountered a woman business owner with a serious Gabriela Hearst collection. Over the course of reporting a piece about her, she wore two of the designer’s knit dresses and admitted to having bought many others. She has a real designer crush.

With long sleeves, high necklines, and midi lengths, Hearst’s dresses are the soul of discretion without being sexless, which is essential to their appeal. This season’s version is colorblocked in squares of red, yellow, and black bordered by white. The motif was inspired by Eileen Gray, an early 20th-century architect and furniture designer who was often overshadowed by her male peers.

Hearst tends to nominate under-recognized women as seasonal muses—Gray spent her last 30 years living a quiet life. Then, decades after her death a chair of her design that belonged to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé sold for $28 million, the highest price ever fetched for a piece of modern furniture. There was a real connection between Gray’s vocabulary and Hearst’s today.

The furniture designer’s lacquered wood screens provided the template for bags made from interlocking squares of leather. And a famous photo of Le Corbusier in the buff at Gray’s house E-1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, a large scar visible on his thigh, suggested the scarring effect seen on leather pieces. The slits cut into a burgundy trench flashed Mediterranean blue, while the ones on the burgundy strapless dress were fiery red. A pair of understated finale dresses with cut-outs on the sides from which metal panniers peeked out seemed to nod towards the chrome Gray used in her adjustable E-1027 table. She was the first to use the material, beating both Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe to the punch. That table looks utterly contemporary.

Hearst was gesturing toward timelessness with this collection. It was rounded out with the minimal tailoring and robust cashmere knits for women and men that she’s known for, and a new collaboration with Tricker’s, the British shoemaker established in 1829. They’ll look smart with those knit midi dresses.