Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Gerlan Marcel: In Print

Written by Nicki Bahrampour
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Before speaking to Gerlan Marcel, the designer behind print-heavy Gerlan Jeans, I would have bet my only pair of Miu Mius that no Central St. Martins trained designer in the world would rather sell at J.C. Penny than Opening Ceremony. That was last week, and now I wouldn’t even bet you my laceless Keds. 

Gerlan Jeans, which is reminiscent of the Jeremy Scott print craze of a few years back, is different in a very crucial way: instead of appealing to club going trust fund kids, she wants to captivate the mall rats of America.   
 

Photos by Jason Rodgers
 
Hair (and head wrap) by Chuckie Amos  
 
Before speaking to Gerlan Marcel, the designer behind print-heavy Gerlan Jeans, I would have bet my only pair of Miu Mius that no Central St. Martins trained designer in the world would rather sell at J.C. Penny than Opening Ceremony. That was last week, and now I wouldn’t even bet you my laceless Keds.

Gerlan Jeans, which is reminiscent of the Jeremy Scott print craze of a few years back, is different in a very crucial way: instead of appealing to club going trust fund kids, she wants to captivate the mall rats of America.  

In a tele-interview from her Brooklyn apartment, Marcel made it clear that her holy grail of retailers would lie somewhere between the strewn red plastic trays and American Eagle basics of some overly frigid megamall. “My vision for Gerlan Jeans in the future is to bring the line to the malls of the world and make that kind of design and energy accessible to a larger group of people than it does at this price point. As a one-woman show, I’m not producing the same quantity as J.C. Penny or H & M, but that’s definitely a goal."

Marcel’s obsession with malls doesn’t rest solely on the conduit by which she’d like her clothes to reach the masses. Much of her inspiration lies on the same lusterless tile floors, but more ‘90s Benetton mall than Forever 21. For Marcel, growing up in the ‘90s meant that retailers were far less homogenous, with brands like Benetton and Esprit producing lines recognizable as theirs and theirs only, a very different proposition than the trend-heavy equivalents of today. This approach is precisely what she’d like to bring back to these blue-collar shopping meccas: original design made accessible, not just watered down runway trends. “I grew up in Ohio,” Marcel explains, “Where I could go into an Esprit store and experience the Memphis Design Group where every garment was completely thought through and had its own voice. Those kinds of ideas behind high street shopping were really at a powerful point then, and the world is not like that anymore and hasn’t been like that for a long time. There’s definitely a homogeny with everything that goes on. I grew up around that mall culture with a love for those stores and at that time there was a lot more print and a lot more color in everything. That to me is the ultimate form of communication through clothing and that’s partly what I would like to bring back."

Unlike a job at the mall where working your way from the bottom up is the motto in every neon-lit employee room, Gerlan Marcel has had to do the reverse. Having studied fashion print at Central St. Martins and creating technical prints for the likes of Coach and Calvin Klein, her way to the mall has been a purposeful spiral downwards and not an easy one at that.  Her bold, almost gaudy prints in eighties inspired silhouettes aren’t everyone’s proverbial cup of tea, especially in what she refers to as a sea of greys and blacks when describing her home turf, New York. “Print and pattern have a stereotype of being for the wardrobe of a younger generation,” she explains. “I think that people are afraid to implement a lot of print, but I also feel like it’s really an American thing because in Europe and definitely all parts of Asia people are willing to take a lot more risks with what they wear."

That hasn’t stopped her American mall revolution though. Most recently she’s turned to ‘crowdfunding’ Web site Kickstarter to fund her latest Dolly Parton inspired Fall 2011 collection. “Kickstarter was such a powerful medium because it was really a make or break situation. Either raise this money to produce the season or hopefully a miracle will shine down on me.” And shine it did. Gerlan Jeans was able to raise $18,000 for her latest collection, which makes her next task of mall rebellion a cinch, because if the Internet loved her so much, the malls will surely follow suit.

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