Like a twisting and turning period telenovela, no one delivers drama quite like Carolina Herrera. Between the bell-shaped ball skirts, oversized rosette appliqués, and dainty floral and brocade patterns, the iconic house has become a champion of traditional formalwear under the watchful eye of Creative Director Wes Gordon. That said, each season, some subtle adjustments and additions are thrown into the mix that make the brand’s signature silhouettes feel fresh and surprising. Such was the case for Carolina Herrera’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection, in which capes, dramatic off-the-shoulder necklines, whimsically full miniskirts, and even outerwear came into play in a fanciful feast for the eyes. Perhaps it was the opulent Plaza ballroom venue, the sentimental soundtrack that included “Georgia On My Mind,” or the fact that the show landed on the eve of Valentine’s Day, but something about Gordon’s latest installment (likely influenced by the recent welcoming of his second child, a baby girl) felt especially romantic and bold.
In fact, the collection was inspired by the “discipline and grandeur” of 19th century European royal, Empress Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ of Austria, according to show notes. “A dazzling figure with her own agency who was unafraid to break rules and stand out, Sisi serves as the starting point for this season, heralding the unapologetic embrace of beauty and high drama,” it reads.
The release goes on to explain that the concept of opulence and what it means in the modern world was also explored in this collection. “There is opulence in time and consideration spent on the creation of a piece, opulence in zero compromise for the very best of construction and craftsmanship by the Carolina Herrera atelier,” the show notes continue. “Opulence in how a woman feels when putting on her dress, the voluminous shape of her skirt held up by layers of feather-light tulle beneath, or a sharply tailored suit precisely cut to the millimeter.”
Speaking of skirts, the brand’s signature floor-length ball skirt got a 2023 upgrade, as equally voluminous, cupcake-like mini versions were shown in large geometric stripe prints, belted, or with hints of tulle peeking out from underneath.
And while all manner of cutouts and midriff-baring crop tops may have been staples on fashion week runways in recent years, it seems Gordon is bringing equally coquettish, off-the-shoulder silhouettes into focus. Yes, clavicles were on full display by way of Bardot necklines. “The rigidity of the Habsburg court in contrast with the freedom and romance Sisi strove for informs the sense of discipline mixed with exuberance and grandeur throughout the collection,” explain the show notes. “Dresses with portrait necklines and romantic spiral folds put the Carolina Herrera woman in the spotlight, holding court.”
Other points of interest came in the form of some unexpected details like the aforementioned capes. The retro silhouette has had a quite rise over the years, and may be positioned for full-blown “aesthetic” status if Gordon has anything to say about it. (Capecore, anyone?) The designer imagined the superhero-inspired separate in silky chartreuse and ruby color ways that hit just above the hip, floating over coordinating mini and maxi skirts. A longline cape moment also made the cut as part of an all-black pant suit ensemble.
Also worth noting is Gordon’s take on outerwear, this time in the form of anorak gowns that read extravagant yet easy to wear. “Opulence does not have to come at the expense of ease and modernity,” explain the show notes. “An effortless floor-length knit dress is adorned in tonal Swarovski crystals that glimmer in soft light. A sweeping gown in the shape of a dramatic hooded anorak is fashioned in decadent woven chine, made with warp-printed yarns in deep purple and emerald green. The Carolina Herrera woman transforms into a modern Empress this season, celebrating her unabashed appreciation of beauty and glamour, like Sisi centuries before her.”