Maverick of Mass Production
Gerlan Jeans is high fashion translated through the malls of America, taking everything blah and basic, and turning it on its head. Gerlan Jeans is the rebel yell of mass-produced fashion, catering to style mavens of any age, as long as they’re young at heart. The woman behind the jeans, Gerlan Marcel, is just who you’d expect at the helm of such a youthful and ebullient line. A pure shock of playful 90s, neon, and bold in a black and white world, Gerlan’s unbridled enthusiasm for life is infused into everything she makes. With her crazy patterns, outspoken personality and endless designer collaborations, Gerlan Jeans will likely be turning heads at your local food court in the very near future.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
I wasn’t one of those kids that grew up reading fashion magazines or being obsessed with fashion. My original introduction came through the mall growing up in Ohio! I was totally obsessed with Esprit and Benetton because their aesthetic was so specific and could transport you into this other world. But my first experience sewing and constructing clothing was when I was supporting myself on the Grateful Dead tour selling clothes. Of course, it was the ultimate basic—I called them boob curtains. Actually, my mother had gone to a Liberty of London sale in the 70s where they sold off all this beautiful fabric for nothing, so when I inherited her machine I also got all this fabric. So, I was on the Grateful Dead tour making dresses out of Liberty of London floral fucking prints. Obviously, I wasn’t trained—I had no idea what I was doing.
And after graduating from Saint Martins, you started working with Jeremy Scott?
I think it was two days after my graduate collection, I flew straight to L.A. and started working on his new collection. That was such an exciting period, to be right out of school and doing something creative that is aesthetically totally up your alley, as well as something that really inspires and stimulates you. Also, to have that experience of what it’s like, how it’s done and what’s possible. This was before Adidas Originals, so at that point, it was really a one-man show. I know it’s such a cheesy saying, ‘Anything’s possible if you put your mind to it,’ but, it really did help me see that.
What was the biggest lesson you learned there?
I don’t think it was one lesson, I think it was more a collective experience. All aspects of my creative development were very much influenced from my time there. Also, just a real sense of making it happen, there was never any “I don’t think that’s going to be possible.” Get that out of your vocabulary! You’ve really got to believe in what you’re doing, really make everything happen.
When did you know that it was time for you to branch out on your own line?
Being at St. Martins, people graduated before me and started brands, so I watched everything they went through and just thought, Oh, hell no. I want to be able to express myself creatively with somebody else’s money. I wasn’t interested in running a business because I dealt with production at Jeremy, I knew it was a nightmare. If you’re not producing at massive market levels, it’s a serious struggle. When people ask, Do you have advice for people who want to start their own label? My number one is: I wouldn’t wish this job on my worst enemy. You’ve got to have a lot of love for what you’re doing, passion, and endless amounts of adrenaline.
Do you like working with other brands, or would you prefer focusing on Gerlan Jeans?
I love doing collaborations with other people. I think it really allows me to flex muscles that are still Gerlan Jeans, but done in a different way. The collaboration with Joy Rich was super exciting because it made Gerlan Jeans accessible to a whole other section of people that can’t buy it normally, and that’s one of my biggest things. The whole concept of Gerlan Jeans is ultimately mass market. It’s about inclusivity and not this niche world that I’m operating in right now. Obviously, it’s inspiring and I have a deep love for that world, but I also think, why? The whole concept behind Gerlan Jeans is a diffusion line without the diffusion. Most affordable fashion has had everything diffused out of it, theres nothing left, so what’s even the point?
How would you describe Gerlan Jeans’ dream consumer?
Obviously, it’s for people who want to take risks. They’re not trying to be black and sophisticated and Alexander Wang about it. They have something to express and they’re not afraid to express it. To me, this is wearable art, so my kind of customer understands that. It comes from a really real place. I think people respond to that.
How do you want someone wearing your clothing to feel?
I think confidence is a huge part of dressing. Obviously, music and nightlife culture is also a huge part of what inspires me, but it’s more about the energy people associate with it than the physical place. People always say to me, “Oh, I thought you were so young because you’re so enthusiastic.” Like, what? Do you lose enthusiasm as you get older? That seems so sad. I think you should feel enthusiastic about life. I think that people who wear Gerlan Jeans feel that way and they spread that energy to other people when they wear it.
You have binders full of inspiration, how do you translate all those fragmented pieces into a cohesive vision?
Well, I start in advance. For instance, the Fall/Winter 2013 collection has been something I wanted to do for five years. I’m always compiling research for these different ideas I have. It’s about focusing and editing down the language and the story that I want to tell and that is a totally organic process. Like the Mall Witch collection started because I watched that film Beautiful Losers, where somebody was asking people what their moment was when they realized they were alternative. I can pinpoint my moment when I realized that instead of trying to stop everything that was different about me, I wanted to really embrace it. But, at the same time you’re in that awkward teen thing where you want to embrace the difference, but you still want that difference to fit in with the other different people. That transitional period and time for me is a running thread throughout all of Gerlan Jeans because I think so much of your personal style and personality, all happens during those formative tween years.
Can you tell me a bit about the Eccentric Lady collection?
I consider myself an eccentric lady. It’s not really an age thing, it’s something you’re born with. There are so many different types of eccentric women, they’re not all under one vein. You have Pat Fields, Diana Vreeland, Zandra Rhodes, Bernadette Peters—the kind of woman some would consider to be a professional kook. But, really, you’re just born with this unique sense of style and you’ve dedicated your entire life in pursuit of what you consider rare beauty. I love something about the grafter. That woman who’s still living in her Lower East Side, rent controlled walk-up with fifty-two cats in a studio with every wall covered in memorabilia, who chain smokes on the toilet reading magazines. I love that.
What is your WILD Wish?
I’m trying to Secret this into the universe right now: I really want to do a collaboration with Snoop Dogg. I just think creatively something really bananas would come out of it. Hopefully that one’s not too wild. Should I give something WILDer?
Go for it! That one seems doable.
Well, I’ve drawn pictures of the Gerlan Jeans corporate headquarters in Jeans, Nevada. It’s a gigantic jean made out of blue-tinted glass and my office is in the shoe at the top. Can The WILD make this happen?