Gerlan Marcel is part of a rising crop of young designers creating subversive sportswear that playfully integrates pop culture with a less-than-serious take on couture. With contemporaries like Carri Munden of Cassette Playa and Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air, Gerlan is amongst the forerunners of a new kind of fashion that brazenly references Internet iconography with aliens, hashtags, and melting peace signs. The NYC-based designer first made waves with her now signature green slime dress, which served as the grand finale to her “Nickelodeon Goth Mall Witch” collection in S/S 2012. The brilliant piece—made of neon lime-colored ooze—basically makes its wearer look as if she just gave the wrong answer to host Marc Summers on Double Dare. It’s all part of the early Marcel’s early ’90s aesthetic, when she was cutting classes at Oberlin High so she could go to the mall. Yes, it was a simpler time then. A time when the majority of social networking actually took place at the mall, most of our fashion tips came from Clarissa Explains It All, and Amanda Bynes was more likely to be getting slimed on some Nickelodeon show than she was to be making the news for posting creepy selfies on twitter. Sigh.
Where are you from?
I was born in London and grew up between the UK and Oberlin, Ohio, a very special place.
Has your Midwestern upbringing contributed to you becoming a fashion designer?
Totally. During my tween and teen years, I was oblivious to runway fashion, but I lived for skipping school to go to the “fancy” Galleria mall in Cleveland. I was obsessed with Esprit, Benetton, Outback Red, Units, matching socks with your purchase at the Gap—all majorly influential.
Prints occupy a special place in your aesthetic. What draws you to prints?
The printed surface is one of the most powerful forms of communication, and what you wear is one of the most powerful forms of self expression. Combined, the possibilities are endless. Let no surface go un-printed.
What’s your view on the ever-increasing popularity of digital printing?
Digital printing has saturated surface design, but I am a purist when it comes to the skill and craftswomanship of the hand-drawn, analog print process. Analog printing brings an energy to the surface that digital printing can’t achieve in the same way.
You’ve worked with a lot of very different designers and brands, from Jeremy Scott, to Calvin Klein, to Barbie. Who has been your favorite to work with and why?
Each experience was its own unique adrenaline rush. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work for such an incredibly eclectic range of designers and mega-brands. Working for Jeremy Scott and Patricia Field were both definitely watershed moments.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
Why did you decide to launch Gerlan Jeans?
I wanted to contribute to the global collective of print and color, plus I have a lot of stories to share and opinions to express. Gerlan Jeans was created as a platform for creative design that is very serious about taking itself less seriously.
Is it important to you to make a diffusion line that was more financially accessible to a wider range of people?
My mission is to make Gerlan Jeans accessible worldwide, to bring creative design back to the high street without delusion, while always speaking to functionality and wearability. Gerlan Jeans is a diffusion line without any diffusion. Although my current price points are a challenge outside the niche market, the ultimate goal is to open Gerlan Jeans flagships at malls across the galaxy.
Is it important to you that your collections are relevant to youth culture?
Being young is so important no matter how old you are.
Do you ever look to websites like Tumblr for inspiration?
Going down a rabbit hole on the Internet is an integral part of my design process.
Why aliens, slime, and Minnie Mouse?
I love telling stories. Each season is about developing and building a lexicon of language and symbols to tell the story. Aliens, slime, and Minnie Mouse are all part of the Gerlan Jeans dictionary of hieroglyphics.
Your S/S 2013 collection has some feminist undertones and was clearly inspired to some extent by Minnie Mouse. Do you consider yourself a feminist and does it play any part in how you design your clothing?
Gerl Power! I am proud to be a strong, independent, powerful woman. Every collection I do is inspired by these types of women. Ladies doing it for themselves.
Who are some of your top female role models?
I have so many. Tina Knowles, Dolly Parton, Patra, Bernadette Peters, Patricia Field, Maya Angelou, Ru Paul, Nicky Marotta from Times Square the movie, Glenn Close, Pink, Diane Vreeland . . . the list goes on.
What are you planning to do next? Do you have another collection in store or any other projects in the works?
S/S13 was an exciting season for Gerlan Jeans. Three collections are currently available in stores worldwide. Gerlan Jeans mainline collection, “Gerl Power,” Gerlan Jeans for Minnie Mouse, and Gerlan Jeans for Joyrich. I am currently working on the Spring/Summer 2014 runway collection, which is top secret.
Gerlan Jeans is available in The BULLETT Shop. Click here to shop the look.