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A Close Look at a Fashion Supply Chain Is Not Pretty

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A Close Look at a Fashion Supply Chain Is Not Pretty

A new report on factories in Malaysia that create products for Brooks Brothers, Levi’s, LL Bean and others examines the high prices workers pay for their jobs.

TAL Apparel is one of the most powerful companies in the global fashion supply chain that many consumers have never heard of. Its factories make huge numbers of shirts — particularly for men — for brands including Brooks Brothers, Bonobos and LL Bean. In fact, TAL Apparel claims it makes one in six dress shirts sold in the United States.

Owned by TAL Group, which is based in Hong Kong and is a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, TAL Apparel employs about 26,000 garment workers in 10 factories globally, producing roughly 50 million pieces of apparel each year including men’s chinos, polo tees, outerwear and dress shirts.

One of those factories is Pen Apparel, in the steamy seaside town of Penang in Malaysia, where 70 percent of workers at the factory were migrants hired in countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh, according to TAL.

Along with Imperial Garments, a second TAL factory in nearby Ipoh, Pen Apparel is the subject of a new report from Transparentem, a nonprofit that focuses on environmental and human rights abuses in supply chains.

The investigation, which was shown to brands supplied by the factories in late May, included allegations of potential forced labor among TAL migrant workers, linked to payment of high recruitment fees in their home countries to guarantee their jobs.

According to the International Labor Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to improving labor conditions, forced labor is “work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.”

Companies don’t always make prompt, substantive changes when faced with revelations of exploitation in their supply chains. But the pandemic has added factors that made the situation even more urgent.

The lockdown sent most clothing sales plummeting, causing Western retailers to slash orders and TAL to start closing its Malaysian operations. If an agreement by TAL and the brands it supplied to pay compensation was not reached quickly, the risk was that the migrant workers — now out of work — could be deported, or disappear into new local employment while still in heavy debt from their jobs with TAL.

Conscious that Western brands are increasingly being held to account by consumers, both TAL and its partners appeared eager to make amends. TAL also released a collective action plan July 24 though it was scant on key details.

The New York Times contacted Levi’s, Brooks Brothers, Suitsupply, Untuckit, LL Bean, Walmart, Lacoste, Charles Tyrwhitt, Stitch Fix, Tie Bar, the Black Tux and Paul Frederick — all brands known to be supplied by TAL’s Malaysian factories.

“We try our utmost to carry out extensive due diligence and audits but with such a global chain it can be a struggle,” said Joy Roeterdink, the corporate social responsibility manager at Suitsupply. “When there is an issue, we don’t believe in cutting relationships with factories. That doesn’t help the workers. It is better for everyone to invest in fixing the problem.”

None of the other brands said anything on the record beyond a statement from the American Apparel and Footwear Association, an industry lobbying group that spoke on behalf of the American brands involved.

Over 18 months, Transparentem gathered evidence in Malaysia from hundreds of the 2,600 migrant workers employed by TAL. Researchers found that many had paid substantial recruitment fees and related costs like visas and health checks in order to secure their jobs before they left their home countries, a common industry practice.

Migrant workers from Bangladesh, for example, paid recruitment agents in their home country an average of $2,450 to work in the TAL factories in Malaysia. Once they arrived, they would also pay a second set of fees, which were effectively TAL’s recruitment costs.

TAL company policy was to front the cost of these fees, which were in practice considered “factory loans,” Transparentem said, that workers gradually repaid through paycheck deductions.

But in Bangladesh, some were charged additional recruitment fees directly by agents, according to Transparentem. They were then threatened by those agents and forced to say, on film, they were not being exploited, at the risk of losing their jobs. For others, the total fees were so high they had used their life savings, sold family land or taken out loans with high interest rates for the chance of a more lucrative livelihood abroad.

“We have come here to work and save up some money,” one Pen Apparel worker, whose identity was not disclosed to prevent retaliation, told Transparentem. “But even after working very hard we are not able to save any money. It is hard to even earn back the money we invested.”

A similar tale was told by workers at Imperial Garments. Many said they had not learned about the TAL factory loans that would be deducted from their salaries until after they had already paid the agents’ fees, according to Transparentem, and the result was that they were being paid half of what they were promised.

Transparentem also said it recorded accounts of deception, intimidation and unsafe living conditions from workers, all of which are listed among the 11 indicators of forced labor outlined by the International Labor Organization.

After production volumes fell to 30 percent of capacity, TAL had announced in April that Pen Apparel would close at the end of July, while Imperial Garments would close at the end of 2020. Against a backdrop of tensions in Malaysia over the country’s harsh treatment of migrant workers during lockdown, many workers were left in a state of despair.

“I have already spent so much money to come here, if they send me back now I will lose that money,” an Imperial Garments worker said in the Transparentem report. “And the land I sold to come here is gone anyway.”

When Transparentem presented its findings to a dozen brands supplied by TAL, nine companies agreed to begin discussions on a collective reimbursement plan, including the Dutch brand Suitsupply and American names like Levi’s, LL Bean, Eddie Bauer and Brooks Brothers (before Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy this month).

Tu Rinsche, the vice president of engagement and partnerships at Transparentem, noted that Transparentem had never seen such a rapid response to one of its reports, or one in which the factory owner played such an active role.

After several rounds of negotiations, an agreement was reached: More than 1,400 workers from eight countries would receive payment from what TAL called a “substantial” collective action fund, distributed to workers in two installments — on July 24 and July 31.

According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the ethical trade consultancy Impactt had also been hired by the brands to assess the living and working conditions of TAL factory workers in Malaysia and ensure they were in line with coronavirus health and safety protocols. The A.A.F.A. called the deal “an immediate solution” that would “protect the rights of all workers throughout our supply chains.”

But beyond saying there would be compensation, TAL and the brands declined to say much else, except that the workers would only be partly — and not fully — compensated for their debts. Although the restitution fund may total several million dollars, according to guidance from Transparentem, TAL declined to disclose the full amount of compensation that would be paid, or break down the contributions made by TAL and the participating brands.

Both the A.A.F.A. and TAL declined to outline which brands were taking part in the compensation agreement. (TAL supplies roughly 75 companies.)

At a time when questions are growing around what fashion supply chain transparency means, the reception of the report underscored how few companies still actively tackle labor abuses unless challenged, or disclose their actions afterward.

One of the starkest revelations in the report was that TAL had previously identified many issues — including worker exploitation by recruitment agents — to the extent that in 2018 it stopped hiring from Bangladesh, where the most unethical practices had taken place. Most of the TAL workers in Malaysia who were from Bangladesh were hired before 2018.

TAL, though relatively unknown outside fashion, is nonetheless a visible company within the industry. It is a signatory of the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, suggesting its progressive leanings. Why, then, didn’t TAL immediately reimburse the affected workers when it discovered the abuses and pay them back as part of their wages in 2018?

On a Zoom call last week, Roger Lee, the chief executive officer of TAL Group, offered some answers.

Mr. Lee said that there were deep-rooted problems in worker recruitment across the apparel industry. Although the numbers of migrant workers were particularly high in its Malaysian factories, 80 percent of TAL’s total employees are local employees, he said.

And despite Transparentem’s allegations of potential forced labor in Malaysia — and the fact that TAL had agreed to pay workers’ compensation — he said that such exploitation no longer existed inside the company. According to Mr. Lee, TAL factory loans are waived when a worker leaves for whatever reason, meaning they were not forced to stay against their will (though that would not reduce any debts accrued with agents in their home countries).

Mr. Lee said that on Jan. 1, 2020, TAL changed its policy to cover recruitment fees for all new migrant recruits, a policy that was communicated to customers before the company was aware of the Transparentem investigation.

TAL had also since halted factory loan salary deductions of current workers. That move was part of an internal project with significant expenses to improve labor policies, he said. It required the company to offset factory loans by, in part, raising the prices it charged the brands whose clothes it makes.

“This kind of progress is important but it cannot be done alone by suppliers,” said Mr. Lee, who added that TAL had invested in worker hotlines and educational classes to prevent exploitation. A longer timeline had been necessary to allow the brands it supplied to make the necessary cost adjustments and absorb the migrant workers’ recruitment costs.

“These changes are now in place for workers we hire in the future,” he continued. “But what we’ve been negotiating with Transparentem is how to go back in time to give these migrants what they are owed from events that took place outside Malaysia. It is not impossible. But in this climate, it is not easy either.”

With some clients declaring bankruptcy (Brooks Brothers and J. Crew), and most clients reducing orders, TAL said it had seen a decline of almost 50 percent in orders and was absorbing significant levels of bad debt.

Delman Lee, the president and chief technology officer of TAL Apparel, said that the full fund amount could not be disclosed “because payments differ depending on the individual worker.”

The company was focused on creating a safe environment for workers, he said, which included the payment of allowances, regular temperature checks and, in some cases, repatriation flights to countries like Vietnam, as well as matching migrant workers to new local employers in Malaysia.

At least 1,200 workers would not receive any compensation from the fund. However, TAL said they have received severance or termination compensations, as required by local law.

Although output had ground to a halt in Malaysia, TAL was still paying out wages of $100,000 a day, he said.

“We are in a labor-intensive business,” Mr. Lee said of TAL Group, which has generated pre-pandemic annual revenues of more than $850 million. “Inevitably, issues will take place in our factories, but if we are wrong we will always admit we are wrong and do our best to fix them. We know solving one case is the tip of the iceberg.”

Ms. Rinsche of Transparentem said that only a handful of brands supplied by TAL’s Malaysian factories contributed to the workers’ relief effort and that she hoped more would come forward after the circulation of the report.

“Everyone in the fashion business needs to pay more attention to how they oversee the recruitment of migrant workers, and talk more about the processes required in improving bad practices,” Ms. Rinsche said.

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

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Fashion Briefing: Fashion’s emerging founder-investors are mega-influencers – Glossy

Fashion’s OG Instagrammers are building empires and, at the same time, growing their influence beyond the industry.

After being schooled for years on the workings of the fashion industry, mega-influencers including Danielle Bernstein (2.7 million Instagram followers) and Rocky Barnes (2.5 million Instagram followers) are graduating to careers less reliant on brands. To take it to the next level, they’re leveraging their prowess and communities, driving deals with effective business partners, and evolving their focus, based on the industry’s direction and their own passions. The emerging results, for both Bernstein and Barnes, are personally-backed brands and investment portfolios set to expand based on early successes.

“The plan is to grow, in a big way,” said Bernstein. “I’m a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll always want to introduce new businesses and categories to my brand. And I’m angel investing and joining the board of advisors for so many companies. That’s the future of the creator economy: harnessing and creating community around your existing followers and then figuring out how to monetize that.”

In 2019, upon inking a licensing deal with New York-based clothing company Onia, Bernstein launched the Shop We Wore What e-commerce site, populated with her expanding We Wore What fashion collection. The collection has been at the center of much recent controversy, due to allegedly including copycat designs. According to Bernstein, she turns to vintage pieces, editorials and travel for inspiration. Bernstein’s also become an investor and advisor for hair supplement company Wellbel and CBD brand Highline Wellness. In May, she became active on Patreon, offering exclusive video content to paying members of her community.

In addition, Bernstein heads up We Gave What, a charitable arm of her company. In 2019, she launched tech company Moe Assist with a project management tool for influencers, though its social accounts have been inactive for two-plus months. When asked for comment, a spokesperson said Moe Assist is in a new fundraising stage and “should have news to share shortly.”

Barnes, meanwhile, partnered with Reunited Clothing to come out with her apparel company, The Bright Side, in December. And she recently became a first-time investor-advisor, for 6-month-old SMS shopping platform Qatch. She announced the partnership in an Instagram post on Monday.

“I feel like a grown-up,” she told me, before confirming that she’s interested in investing in more companies. “Diversifying my business has been a really big [focus] for me. I interact with so many different brands and companies on a daily basis. Using my market knowledge in ways that can help other people is fulfilling and exciting for me. And I especially love when I can be involved with a company from the beginning.”

Building on their content creator role in fashion is a natural progression, both said. And it plays into many industry shifts: On its way out is fashion’s DTC era, largely fueled by Harvard Business School and Wharton graduates using a plug-and-play, marketing-heavy business model to launch brands. More consumers are prioritizing quality, differentiated products, making industry experience and style expertise greater virtues among insiders. At the same time, consumers are increasingly taking shopping cues from relatable, platform-native celebrities, moving on from authoritative editors and more closed-off celebrities.

The school of collaborations
The collaborator-to-founder shift isn’t the newest thing. Other longtime influencers that have made the pivot include Arielle Charnas, with Something Navy; Aimee Song, with Song of Style; Rumi Neely, with Are You Am I; the list goes on. Most often, the names behind these brands don’t have formal design and business training — for her part, Bernstein said she “went to FIT for two years, but didn’t study design and production.” But, for years, they’ve worked hand-in-hand with companies to bring their visions to life. And along the way, they’ve come to know what resonates best with their vast communities, from marketing to merchandising to product.

“My most successful collaborations have led to the largest share of my business,” said Bernstein.

Bernstein’s partnership with Onia came out of her swimwear collaboration with its Onia brand, in May 2019. On the collab’s launch day, it drove $2 million in sales, and an included style was the brand’s best-selling swimsuit of the summer. Also in 2019, Bernstein collaborated with Joe’s Jeans on multiple denim collections. The launch day of the first, in March 2019, marked Joe Jeans’ best sales day to date, said Jennifer Hawkins, the brand’s svp of marketing and innovation on a Glossy Podcast in October.

Both served as learning opportunities for Bernstein, who said — as with all of her collaborations — she took full advantage: “It was never just [uploading] a post, and then I went away,” she said. “I always wanted to know how the performance was, in terms of sales, and asked questions: ‘Can you share the analytics?’ ‘What did you see on your end?’ ‘What worked and what didn’t work?’”

She added, “They provided a ton of data, in terms of what I could sell and what the market was missing.”

Likewise, she said, she always followed and shared with partner brands the Instagram Insights and Google Analytics numbers around her corresponding posts. Doing so gave all parties a 360-degree view of a collaboration’s success.

“I’ve learned what works for brands so they get the largest return on their investment,” she said.

For example, she’s learned to lean on her audience’s tastes, versus rely on her own, by allowing them to offer feedback throughout the design process through Instagram. That’s included the selection of fabrics and colors and the fit sessions with models. She only spotlights her favorite styles and what she wears in her own social posts, as a play for authenticity.

According to Bernstein, the collaborations with brands allowing her to play an advisor role — by guiding them on influencer partnerships, marketing and messaging — are always more successful. And they often turn into longer-term investment or advising partnerships.

Bernstein chose to work with Onia on the We Wore What collection based on its prioritization of quality and fit, and ability to keep to affordable retail prices. Currently, prices on the We Wore What site range from $20, for a scrunchie, to $228, for a vegan leather jumpsuit.

Barnes was also ready to go out on her own after finding the right partners. Her Reunited Clothing partnership came after working with the company to create her Express product collaboration, in early 2019. On its first-quarter 2019 earnings call, interim CEO Matthew C. Moullering said the company had seen “a strong start to [the] collection both in-stores and online and [believed] it [was] helping to introduce the brand to a new audience.”

“Having your own brand is terrifying,” Barnes said. “But I like that I’m in control and not so dependent on doing the day-to-day posts promoting other companies.”

But, she added, “One of the huge benefits of working with all these different brands on all these different projects is that we’re constantly getting introduced to new people and seeing who we like working with.”

Barnes’ internal team consists of her husband, who’s the “business brains” of the company, she said, and an assistant.

Like Bernstein, Barnes stressed the need for outside support in the production process: “I love such quirky, crazy things, but I also understand what is realistic for a buyer and a normal girl buying clothes,” she said. “The experience of taking ideas and making them work for a bigger group of people was my learning curve going into a business. It’s important to have a good, diverse team around you who can make your idea something that’s marketable.”

For its part, We Wore What has seen “200x growth in the last year,” as it’s expanded to new categories, Bernstein said. Its ready-to-wear, swimwear, resort wear, and activewear are now sold in “dozens and dozens of retailers around the world,” many of which offer style exclusives; they include Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix.

“Launching my own brand was putting the proof in the pudding for the power of influencers, when it comes to selling product,” she said.

As with her Joe’s and Onia collaborations, Bernstein sees a rush-to-buy with We Wore What product drops. “The first 10 minutes is when we see the biggest portion of our sales for the entire collection,” she said.

To build buzz, Shop We Wore What’s Instagram account (213,000 followers) features in its Stories the line sheets of the soon-to-launch styles, allowing customers to thoughtfully plan their buy. Doing so has led to lower return rates, Bernstein said. The company’s marketing mix also includes text messages and emails, VIP discounts and user-generated content.

Bernstein has a staff of four people, which include a chief operating officer and a brand coordinator. She said she prioritizes establishing partners with skills and expertise she doesn’t have, so she can learn from them along the way. Ideally, she’d have learned about tech packs, fittings and production logistics in school, but she’s training as she goes.

Moving forward, Bernstein said she plans to extend the size range of We What What styles, which are currently available in sizes XS-XXL, and launch collections with collaborators to sell exclusively on her brand’s DTC site. In addition, she aims to eventually open “experimental” physical retail, starting with pop-ups.

As for her investment-advisor portfolio, she’s currently in talks with companies centered on the concepts of “being able to sell your closet and even rent your closet.”

As for Barnes’ Bright Side, she said it will hit “a bunch of new retailers this year.”

Moving beyond fashion
Up next for Shop We Wore What is a new product category that will hit before the holiday season. Considering her passion for home furnishings and decor — based on her @homeworewhat Instagram account (7,500 followers) and recent press coverage of her new SoHo loft — it’s a safe bet that a home-related category is in the cards.

Likewise, Barnes hinted at a future Bright Side home collection, following her recent, two-year home remodel, which she’s getting set to debut on social media.

Lifestyle brands are the clear goal.

“I would love to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart, just having my hands in everything and creating this really beautiful lifestyle where you can entertain and be fashionable,” Barnes said. “That’s kind of the dream.”

She added, “Fashion is where my heart has always been, but I’m growing as a person and there’s so much more in my life right now: my family, my home — and I’m getting older, so beauty [and skin care] makes sense now. Sharing all of that with everyone seems so natural; it would be weird if I only did fashion.”

As for future investments, though Quatch fits perfectly into Barnes’ world, with its fashion-tech focus, she said she’s open to investing in any company where she sees opportunity.

What’s more, she has no plans to retire from social media, though she has yet to tackle TikTok.

“People’s need for content has only increased, so I’m posting and creating content more than ever,” Barnes said. “But I’ve learned to become more of a hard-ass with brands. The companies that are willing to work with me and [facilitate] the most like authentic relationship possible are the ones I move forward with.” Reunited can attest.

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Marcelo Gaia on Mirror Palais’ First Pop-Up and Beyond

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Marcelo Gaia on Mirror Palais' First Pop-Up and Beyond

In an age where fast fashion is king and our feeds are constantly over-saturated with a rapidly-changing array of trends, Marcelo Gaia, the owner and lead designer of Mirror Palais, is forging a new path. Since founding the brand in 2019, the New York-based designer has taken social media by storm. After accumulating a large and devoted fanbase that includes the likes of Kendall Jenner, Ariana Grande, Bella Hadid, and Dua Lipa, Gaia has established Mirror Palais as one of the most-coveted labels on the internet.

marcelo gaia

Mirror Palais founder and designer Marcelo Gaia

Heido Stanton

However, more than just being a popular social media brand, Mirror Palais stands for something greater than a revolving door of trends and has quickly solidified its own unique position in the fashion world. Made in New York City with deadstock fabrics and fair trade cottons and silks, the label is humanizing the design and construction processes. Operating on a made to order system for its RTW collections, it strives to minimize waste and excess supply at every step.

mirror palais

Mirror Palais Collection II campaign

Heidi Stanton

mirror palais

Mirror Palais Collection II campaign

Heidi Stanton

Mirror Palais has also proven to be just as thoughtful and distinct in its designs. Inspired by the most influential women in Gaia’s life, the brand celebrates the female form in novel, fun, and enchanting ways, with sizes ranging from XXS to 2X. Some of the label’s most unique and beloved designs include the famed underwire polo tops, sultry lingerie-inspired mini dresses, and Brazilian bikinis embellished with eccentric florals and ‘90s patterns.

This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Now, Gaia is bringing the Mirror Palais experience into the real world with the brand’s first pop-up in New York City. Launching on October 22, just in-time for the label’s second anniversary, the brick and mortar will be located at 27 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side and will give shoppers the opportunity to experience the brand’s second collection in-person.

Ahead of the opening, CR spoke with Gaia to reflect on the past, present, and future of Mirror Palais.

mirror palais

Mirror Palais Collection II campaign

Heidi Stanton

mirror palais

Mirror Palais Collection II campaign

Heidi Stanton

CR: Mirror Palais is arguably the most in-demand small designer brand right now, with a quickly-growing following. With such a high level of popularity, how are you managing producing new garments and designs under such pressure, while still staying true to a small-scale, environmentally conscious image?

MG: I think the biggest thing is that I’m super transparent with my clientele and with my following about everything that’s going on. So, I never feel that I have to promise something that I can’t deliver and even if I do fall short, there’s this understanding that the business is growing during such an unprecedented time. … I have an amazing communications manager who has been with me since I started the company, and she’s taken over communicating with our customers, which is pretty much the most important part of our business because we’re made to order. We make sure that, whoever they are, they know that their order is very important to us and that we’re going to do everything in our power to accommodate them. So, it’s basically that everything I do comes with the client, the Mirror Palais girl in mind and then everything else trickles down from there.

CR: Along the same lines, Mirror Palais has been seen all over Instagram and TikTok, as well as on numerous celebrities including, Dua Lipa, Bella Hadid, and Kylie Jenner. How has this widespread exposure via social media helped the brand, and in what ways, if any, has it harmed it?

MG: I think that some people get it wrong, in that, there’s this idea that celebrities are necessary for implementing a brand into a higher status. With my own experience, I’ve found that not to be the case because, before I had any celebrity wearing my clothes, I was already amassing a strong community and following just based off of the story that we were sharing online. So, with the first celebrity moment, which was Dua Lipa in one of her music videos, it was one of those moments when, anyone who maybe needed that affirmation that we were legitimate because the business was founded on Instagram, was like, “okay, maybe this is someone to take more seriously.” I think it ultimately helped with that sort of endorsement. … Perhaps one of the ways that it might harm our business is that people have a perception of the business being bigger than it is. It’s like “oh, if so-and-so is wearing their clothes, they must be this big corporation,” when, really, when we started it was just me in this little tiny room with a garment rack. We’ve grown, but we’re still a really small team and we have four full-time employees. So, I guess that’s where we are harmed a little bit, with putting unrealistic expectations on us even though we’re still so young.

CR: Wow, only four full time employees? Well, you are clearly making it work.

MG: We are, we are. I’m a really conservative person and I don’t want to make any promises that I can’t keep. So, the idea of bringing people on is like a ship, right? I don’t want to bring on more people that I can feed, or more than the boat can actually handle. So, I’m just trying to find that balance as a business owner, and it is definitely difficult to do creative and business at the same time. But, I have an amazing team that are supporting me in all of those ways.

CR: Considering the saturation of specific trends in the fashion world as a result of social media, how do you go about keeping the Mirror Palais image unique? More specifically, where do you look for inspiration in order to ensure that the brand continues to stand out and have an identity of its own?

MG: I love old films, they’re a huge inspiration for the brand. I think that the Mirror Palais story, the feed, can kind of roll out like a movie story might and I try to capture moments that may not have been used in terms of the imagery. I just trying to capture something that might resonate with someone in a different, less commercial or contrived way; maybe catching those little moments in between the shots. I don’t retouch my images, so I was really careful to not go a traditional route with my imagery. I was really just shooting people who were helping me, my friends in my clothes and we would just go out onto the street and we’d go get a coffee and then I’d take a video that would go viral. And it wasn’t as if I’d set up this big-budget shoot or anything, I was just being in the moment with a friend. I think just trying to deliver more, I know people hate the word “authenticity,” but I guess just trying to show something that you don’t exactly see anymore. Even that has become more popular. I feel like I just try to capture those little in-between moments and that’s what really resonates with our following.

CR: When you’re designing new looks, what sort of individual do you envision? Essentially, what kind of person is the “Mirror Palais” muse?

MG: Initially, I envision my mom and who she is, and especially who she was in her younger years. She grew up in Brazil and moved to the states, and she kept this insane archive of all of her clothes wherever we moved. It was a big source of inspiration and exploration for me as a young gay man. I would go into her closet and secretly try her clothes on. I got this intimate sense of what it felt like to be a woman. I’ve just been surrounded by women by whole life: I was raised by my mom and older sister and in grade, middle, and high school I only had female friends. I also only really have close female friends now. So, I think that I exist in the world as a cis-man, but my point of view is very much female. In a way, I think I am just trying to create what I think the women in my life would like to find in a thrift or vintage store. I did a lot of thrifting when I was younger because we didn’t have a lot of money. So, that was how I created my fashion identity: through my mom’s stuff and going to thrift stores. The idea of finding that one thing that stands out and getting super excited about it is the moment that I’m trying to recreate with my store and with my designs.

CR: This week, you are opening your first pop-up for the brand in New York. What does this mean to you as a New Yorker to be able to open a brick and mortar in your home city?

MG: I never thought that it would ever be something that was possible for me. It’s amazing that I’m getting to do what I love the most, which is getting to go shopping with my friends. I feel like all of my customers and all of my followers are like my friends and they are going to be coming by and we’re going to be playing dress-up! And I hope that people are going to be able to find something that they really love. I feel really hopeful that the experience in-person will be even greater than the experience online and I’m really excited. It still hasn’t really hit me yet. I was having a meeting with Susan Alexander right before this, who is also opening her first store. I’m 27 Orchard St and she’s 33 Orchard St. And then across the street is Sandy Lee Yang. So, I feel like there this is the new wave in New York fashion and I’m hoping that I can connect with as many people as possible to determine how we can do things differently than the people who came before us.

CR: What can shoppers expect from the Mirror Palais pop-up with regard to its aesthetic, design, and overall vibe?

MG: It’s a very clean layout. It’s a white box gallery space at the Larrie gallery, so, it’s just going to be super clean and there are going to be little Mirror Palais touches here and there. There’s just going to be a lot of playing and the clothes themselves are really going to contrast with that stark white, which I think will be really fun. I feel like you’re going to get the chance to experience the brand in-person, which is basically us, my team, us girls hyping each other up. Basically, that’s what happens in our office every day when we get new samples and everyone in the office tries everything on. And we’re going to be debuting our new campaign by Heidi [Stanton] on Thursday [October 22nd]. We did this really cool images that I have been kind of hoarding, just waiting for the right moment to release. So, we’re going to do those in-conjunction with some wheatpastes around the city. We’re going to be all over downtown for a little bit, which I’m excited to do.

CR: Considering this pop-up is a huge milestone in the brand’s trajectory, what’s your next goal or milestone for Mirror Palais after opening a physical space?

MG: My long-term goal would be to create a space where people can come to create a customized wardrobe with our shapes. At the turn of the century, when designers started opening their ateliers, especially in Paris, the made-to-measure movement with high-end designers was something that seemed really cool and is something that I don’t think most of us have access to. So, I would love to create a space where people can come by, see the shapes, and try-on the different sizes that we have. We carry XXS to 2XL, so we would have someone to measure you and create a really intentional experience with your wardrobe acquisition, so everything that you’re putting into your closet is made for you and has a really special memory attached to it. Hopefully, that will make you want to hold on to it forever and ultimately, create less waste, which is something that is important to me and should be important to every designer right now. It’s about how we can be more conscious about what we’re putting out into the world and I think that, if you’re really in-love with your clothes, then you treat them better and they won’t end up in a landfill.

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The Best Street Style at Paris Fashion Week

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The Best Street Style at Paris Fashion Week

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

At Paris Fashion Week, photographer Christina Fragkou captured street styles during the nine days of shows and events.

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @louispisano

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Hera is wearing Daily Paper pants and jacket with Goossens jewelry and an Off White bag.
Instagram: @herapradel

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“I just wanted to be comfy. I like earth colors — nothing too vivid!”
Instagram: @ogqueen

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: amyyaa_

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Cõvco: “I’m inspired by my mama.” Tshegue: “I’m inspired by chaos.”
Instagram: @_covco and @tshegue_official

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“Different influencers inspire my style … Oh, and TikTok.”
Instagram: @elviedesu

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Jessica is wearing an Ottolinger top and shorts, Doc Martens, and a Dior bag.
Instagram: @jessicaaidi

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Sofia is wearing all vintage. “I’m inspired by party life.”
Instagram: @sofsanfe__

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Aleali is wearing an Ottolinger shirt and pants, a Mowalola purse, and Miista boots.
Instagram: @alealimay

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“I’m a walking disco ball; I need dance!”
Instagram: @yumasui

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“I love corsets, and I’m very into ’60s vibes, especially when it comes to shoes!”
Instagram: @aim_.d

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Courtney is wearing an Ottolinger outfit and Gucci shoes.
Instagram: @alwaysjudging

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Maria is wearing Ottolinger.
Instagram: @maria_bernad

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Kiddy is wearing a Prada top, jacket, and gloves; Mugler pants; and Ann Demeulemeester shoes.
Instagram: @areyoukitty

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Cindy is wearing Ottolinger and Rick Owens shoes.
Instagram: @cindybruna

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @susiebubble

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @sachaquenby

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @parlonsstyle

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Courtney is wearing a Courrèges leather set.
Instagram: @alwaysjudging

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Ellie is wearing a Coperni top and bag.
Instagram: @slipintostyle

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Scottie is wearing a vintage look that’s “a little Audrey Hepburn.”
Instagram: @scottielarsonn

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Devon is wearing a vintage outfit with a Maison Margiela bag. “I believe in being sustainable and don’t want to add to my footprint, so I dress mostly vintage. I styled this outfit entirely around this perfect jacket. I wish I had this when I was a kid.”
Instagram: @devonkaylor

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Kristen is wearing a Loewe dress and a Munthe coat with an Ottolinger bag.
“Today is vacation style: Miami and retirement homes and White Lotus!”
Instagram: @kristenvbateman

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @louloudesaison

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Jamie-Maree is wearing a Balenciaga outfit.
Instagram: @airtomyearth

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Selma is wearing pants and a jacket by Patou with a vintage vest, a JW Anderson bag, Gucci necklaces, Nanushka sunglasses, and Yeezy shoes.
Instagram: @selmakacisebbagh

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“My friend who owns a vintage boutique dresses me. He wanted me to be out of my comfort zone because normally I dress very femme, and this is all men’s clothing!”
Instagram: @la_dingue

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Petra is wearing a Résumé dress with ASOS shoes and a Cala Jade bag.
Instagram: @petrahenriette

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Louis is wearing Coperni.
Instagram: @louispisano

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Nina is wearing a Hyein SEO outfit with a Coperni bag and Celine boots.
Instagram: @ninauc

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Gala is wearing a Coperni outfit with Giuseppe Zanotti shoes and Valentino sunglasses.
Instagram: @galagonzalez

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Tiffany is wearing an outfit from the Attico with a Chanel bag.
Instagram: @handinfire

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Linda is wearing an Ivy Park x Adidas jumpsuit and Zara shoes.
Instagram: @letscooktonite

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“I don’t really have an inspiration today. I just wanted to wear my Crocs and highlight them, so I wore all black!”
Instagram: @17xpk_

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“My inspiration is retro, ’70s, ’80s. It’s a little bit of a mix!”
Instagram: @missgeburtz

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Hillary is wearing Collina Strada.
Instagram: @_collina

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“I couldn’t decide what shoes to wear so I wore one of each.”
Instagram: @selenaforrest

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“To be honest, I just wanted to match my hair!”
Instagram: @hannahparent

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @clementine.bal

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“I just came from Geneva and wanted to get some new clothes. I went to my friend’s vintage shop and gave him the freedom to dress me. I was his doll.”
Instagram: @spiceandcurls

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @angel__emoji

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Symone is wearing Vivienne Westwood.
Instagram: @the_symone

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Michelle is wearing a vintage dress, a Balenciaga jacket, and Louis Vuitton boots with a Loewe bag.
Instagram: @laffmichelle

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Miss Fame is wearing Vivienne Westwood with Earnest shoes.
Instagram: @missfamenyc

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Linda, left, is wearing a vintage Yves Saint-Laurent top, a Raey jacket, Róhe pants, and Prada shoes with an Hermès bag. Erika is wearing a Celine top, a By Malene Birger coat, and Christopher Esber shoes with an Hermès bag.
Instagram: @lindatol_ and @erika_boldrin

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Alex is wearing Loewe.
Instagram: @alexgoyaa

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Taqwa is wearing Fendi.
Instagram: @taqwabintali

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Tiana is wearing a vintage top and skirt, Pretty Brain Vomit tights, and tabi shoes with a Telfar bag.
Instagram: @ sade.stan

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Caro is wearing Loewe.
Instagram: @carodaur

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Yilan is wearing a Maisonprin sweater, a vintage cardigan, Zara pants, and Alexander McQueen shoes.
Instagram: @yilun_hua

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Sarah is wearing a Vivienne Westwood shirt, a Samsøe & Samsøe skirt, Doc Martens, and Ray-Ban glasses with a Coperni bag.
Instagram: @sarahloufalk

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Emma is wearing an Aureliane outfit with Zara shoes and a Lancel bag.
Instagram: @ emma.siaut

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

“Lately I’ve been loving monotoned outfits. I also love some faux fur.”
Instagram: @pilarmadimin

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Lisa is wearing a Victoria Beckham blouse and Studio Sut trousers with Bottega Veneta shoes and bag.
Instagram: @lisa.aiken

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Caro is wearing an Hermès jumper, the Attico shorts, a Giambattista Valli jacket, and Miu Miu shoes.
Instagram: @carodaur

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Emili is wearing Lanvin with a JW PEI bag.
Instagram: @emilisindlev

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @reishito

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Chloé is wearing a Loulou Studio top and Rotate shoes with a Chanel bag.
Instagram: @louloudesaison

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Eugénie is wearing Prada.
Instagram: @eugenietrochu

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @jaimetoutcheztoi

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Emna is wearing a Ludovic crop, a Rouge cardigan, Louis Vuitton pants, and Ghazal shoes with a By Far bag.
Instagram: @emnitta

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Tiffany is wearing a Rick Owens skirt and a shirt by the Money shirt with Balenciaga shoes and an Hermès bag.
Instagram: @handinfire

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Johanna is wearing a Zaza Design dress, an Escada coat, a Be Goldish necklace, Hugo Boss shoes, and Stella McCartney leggings.
Instagram: @johannakeimeyer

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Devon is wearing Jojo jeans with a vintage hat, dress, and gloves.
Instagram: @devonkaylor

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @ st.einberg

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Chiara is wearing a vintage blazer, a Jacquemus top, and Alanui pants with a Tory Burch bag and Bottega Veneta shoes.
Instagram: @chiaratotire

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Jenny is wearing a Miu Miu dress over a Prada top.
Instagram: @jennymwalton

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Monica is wearing a vintage coat, Falke socks, Miu Miu shoes, and Rendel sunglasses.
Instagram: @monicaainleydlv

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Alaa is wearing a vintage skirt, Chloé shoes, and an AKA coat with a Paco Rabanne bag.
Instagram: alaa

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Thássia is wearing Miu Miu.
Instagram: @thassianaves

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Kay is wearing Lacoste.
Instagram: kaaymbl

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Lena is wearing a Miu Miu look with Alexander McQueen boots.
Instagram: @lenamahfouf

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Courtney is wearing Miu Miu.
Instagram: @alwaysjudging

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Blanca is wearing a Lacoste outfit with Nike shoes and a Y/Project scarf.
Instagram: @blancamiro

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Snehal and Jyoti are wearing Chanel with custom pants.
Instagram: snejyo

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Lauren is wearing Lacoste.
Instagram: @theimpossiblemuse

Photo: Christina Fragkou / Cris Fragkou

Instagram: @annarvitiello

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