Connect with us

Fashion

Wage theft plagues L.A. garment workers. Why aren’t fashion retailers held responsible?

Published

on

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 03: Alnea, left, and Arno Nabos, who own the small apparel factory Nana Atelier, are in support of SB 1399, a bill that would toughen regulations on California apparel makers requiring employers to pay at least minimum wage and make fashion brands jointly liable for any labor violations. They see the bill as treating workers fairly. Photographed in Los Angeles on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The prices are hard to believe: $24.99 for an on-trend dress, delivered to your door; $9.99 for a silky camisole hanging from the rack at a discount chain.

But someone has to pay the real cost of those cheap clothes even if it’s not the American consumer, say labor advocates — who point to the thousands of immigrant workers who can sometimes toil for far less than the minimum wage in small Los Angeles apparel factories.

Now, those advocates are proposing the industry’s biggest reforms in a generation, legislation that would turn the traditional pay structure on its head while holding online shops such as Fashion Nova and other retailers including Nordstrom responsible for any wage theft that occurs in the making of their apparel.

“If your clothes are being produced in an unlawful condition, you are going to share responsibility, period,” said Dana Hadl, a directing attorney at Bet Tzedek, a Los Angeles nonprofit that provides free legal counsel to workers and drafted the legislation.

The bill, SB 1399, is so far-reaching that it’s being labeled by critics as an existential threat to what remains of the region’s once-booming apparel industry, which has shrunk to roughly 45,000 workers after decades of competition from cheap foreign labor. More than a dozen business groups have lined up against it, including the industry’s trade association, the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Assn.

Opposition, though, is not uniform as some high-profile L.A.-area companies are backing the bill, including Reformation, which markets eco-friendly women’s wear and has a celebrity clientele, and Fashion Nova, the popular fast-fashion retailer, which has been accused of turning a blind eye to wage theft but recently announced changes to its contracting practices.

The proposed reforms follow those enacted in 1999, four years after 72 undocumented Thai workers were found virtually enslaved in an El Monte apartment complex, stitching together clothing behind barbed wire. That legislation made garment manufacturers liable for wage violations by the contractors who cut, sew and otherwise produce their garments.

But in the decades since, worker advocates say that some fashion brands and retailers that carry their own clothing lines have found ways to skirt the law by employing layers of subcontracting between them and the small factories that actually produce apparel. Random inspections of 77 garment shops conducted in 2015 and 2016 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found wage violations at 85% of them. Advocates say the situation hasn’t gotten any better, with many undocumented Latino immigrants afraid to file wage claims over fears of deportation.

A 2016 state law, which applied to multiple fields, tightened up regulations on piece-rate compensation, which is traditional in the apparel industry and pays workers for every hem, seam and cuff they sew. That law mandated paid rest and recovery time and required more detailed payroll records.

The piece rate can allow skilled workers to well exceed the minimum wage, but labor advocates say the rates are often set so low that apparel workers can make less than $5 an hour — even though employers are supposed to make up the difference and pay the legal minimum in such instances. SB 1399, which has passed the Senate and is expected to be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week, would require employers to pay an hourly wage and only allows piece-rate compensation as an incentive bonus, unless provided for in a collective bargaining agreement.

The combination of creating more stringent liability for wage theft and banning the piece rate has opponents saying the reforms will finish off much of what is left of L.A.’s apparel industry, which once employed some 150,000 workers before liberalized trade with Mexico, Central America and Asia sent clothing assembly out of the country.

“This is a huge overhaul of the entire industry,” said Jennifer Barrera, executive vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce, which has labeled the bill a “job killer,” though she acknowledged there was “no question” labor abuses occur in the industry. “You incentivize companies to basically say, ‘I am not going to contract anymore in California. I can go elsewhere and not be exposed to this type of litigation.'”

The first Forever 21 store opened in 1984 on Figueroa Street in Highland Park. The company was then called Fashion 21.  (Claire Hannah Collins / Los Angeles Times)

Labor advocates say the rise of fast-fashion retailers such as Forever 21 has contributed to the problem. The L.A. company had been the poster child for alleged wage abuses before it faltered and filed for bankruptcy last year. The Los Angeles Times documented in 2017 how the company had been cited in nearly 300 claims since 2007 by workers demanding back pay for producing its clothing, yet Forever 21 had not paid anything because it was classified as a retailer.

More recently, labor advocates have been critical of Fashion Nova, one of the local industry’s rising stars — and were stunned to hear it had decided to support the proposed reforms. The largely online retailer has skyrocketed to prominence on its $22.99 skin-tight jumpsuits, $19.99 tops and other affordable apparel embraced by a legion of Instagram influencers. It’s also partnered with celebrities such as rapper Cardi B on clothing lines.

The company’s business model relies on rapidly churning out apparel that may be in style for only a short time. That favors making clothes locally even if production costs might be higher than overseas — but critics charge that has led to abuses given the low price tags. An expose in the New York Times in December alleged wage theft at small subcontractors that was similar to what workers suffered making clothes for Forever 21.

Opponents contend the two companies are outliers and do not represent the practices of the L.A. apparel industry, where the use of subcontractors to assemble apparel has long been standard. They are calling for better enforcement of existing laws.

Garment workers rally in downtown Los Angeles in 2016 to demand an end to wage theft and unsafe working conditions.  (Los Angeles Times)

“This new law is all-encompassing, and it paints the whole industry as a bad apple — that is my problem. We are not all Fashion Nova and Forever 21,” said Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Assn. trade group, who fears big chains such as Nordstrom and other retailers will stop contracting for apparel in the state. “You are picking the worst of the worst.”

Fashion Nova declined to comment on Metchek’s remarks but has announced reforms of its contracting practices. That includes a mandate that its contractors and subcontractors agree to random independent audits and that their workers are paid the applicable minimum wage, which in Los Angeles rises to $15 an hour for employers of all size next July.

It is also establishing a toll-free hotline for workers to report abuses and has instituted an escalating system of penalties for violators of its agreements. The company said it recently suspended 10 vendors that refused to submit to third-party audits. Fashion Nova would not comment on what percentage of its clothing it continues to make in Los Angeles, but it did say it continues to work with more than 50 local vendors.

“Fashion Nova continues to support the various steps taken by government agencies and factories towards improving working conditions for garment workers, including the latest legislation proposed with SB 1399,” the company said in a statement to The Times.

Surprised labor advocates speculate the company wants to avoid more negative publicity but applauded the decision and called on other apparel makers to join it. “We’re certain both business and workers can thrive under SB 1399,” the sponsors said in a statement.

An office of a sewing factory in downtown Los Angeles. The owner says he cannot afford to pay workers the minimum wage.  (Claire Hannah Collins / Los Angeles Times)

Worker advocates maintain that wage theft goes beyond a handful of retailers and is common in the industry, and the new reforms would fix shortcomings in the original 1999 legislation that have allowed some apparel makers to evade it.

“We would not have clamoring by these garment workers who say the piece rate is used to exploit them if in fact they were making much more money,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), who heard workers’ testimony last year chairing an oversight hearing on a wage-restitution fund for apparel workers.

The hearing prompted her to seek proposed reforms from worker advocates, which were distilled into the bill. SB 1399 creates a new category of companies called “brand guarantors” that would be “jointly and severally” liable for any wage theft in the production of clothing. That would make retailers that contract to have clothing made for them responsible for a wage violation even if it was committed by an apparel shop hired by its manufacturing contractor, something advocates say is very difficult to do now and relatively rare.

Critics say that joint liability for third-party violations would make “any person or entity in the clothing industry” liable, including dry cleaners, personal shoppers and secondhand retailers, according to a letter of opposition by the California Chamber of Commerce signed by 18 other groups.

Hadl said the criticisms are wild exaggerations intended to confuse legislators. She said the bill only creates liability for entities that contract to have clothes made in California, such as a retailer that hires apparel companies to produce clothing to its specifications for its private labels.

Lil Nas X performs at Fashion Nova Presents: Party With Cardi at the Hollywood Palladium in May 2019.  (Jerritt Clark / Getty Images for Fashion Nova)

That provision would capture virtually all the clothing sold at a retailer such as Fashion Nova, advocates say, but only some of the apparel sold by department stores or discount chains that carry myriad merchandise, including outside brands.

“Somebody who buys finished goods who has not had any input into their production is not going to be held liable. Target says, ‘We want to buy 50,000 Nike T-shirts of the L.A. Rams’ — it doesn’t meet the criteria,” Hadl said.

Bill advocates say joint liability is crucial in ensuring there are large entities on the hook able to pay wage claims. It would also encourage brands and retailers to pay more to have their clothes made and step up their monitoring of the region’s small subcontractors, which cut, sew and finish garments and are often owned by Korean immigrants. They say monitoring has fallen off over the years.

“The workers at the bottom are the ones left holding the bag because the most capitalized and the biggest companies are the ones at the top. At the bottom are the direct employers of the workers who are fly-by-night or disappear or are judgment-proof or transfer ownership to the brother or cousin or uncle or whoever,” said Matthew DeCarolis, another Bet Tzedek attorney.

The Garment Worker Center, a bill sponsor that provides services to apparel workers in downtown Los Angeles, has been helping Santa, a 36-year-old undocumented worker, deal with just such a situation. The woman, who asked that her surname not be disclosed because of her immigration status, said she typically worked 65 to 70 hours a week at a factory on East 60th Street in Los Angeles for $300 to $325, less than $5 an hour depending on the week.

Her claim lists three employers at that address, including Chung Dress and its owner Sane Chung. She provided labels in her wage claim indicating she made clothes for Frame, a new upscale lifestyle brand in Culver City, and Good American, a “body positivity” brand co-founded by Khloe Kardashian that sells casual clothing for women of all sizes.

Chung denied to The Times that the woman was the victim of wage theft and said the complaint was retaliation for being laid off when work slowed. He also said she worked not for him but for a third company — a subcontractor he used when Chung Dress had more work than it could handle but that dissolved after the work ran out. It was run by a friend who sublet space. Chung said he had submitted payroll records to the state that back up his innocence.

“I understand there are a lot of employers that, you know, do shady things, that don’t pay well, but what happens to the people like me? I’m fair. I did everything the right way and I still get dinged,” he said.

Labor advocates say thousands of immigrant workers can sometimes toil for far less than the minimum wage in small Los Angeles apparel factories, such as the one above on South Hill Street.  (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Frame issued a statement that it is “committed to the highest ethical standards” and works “diligently to ensure that each factory we work with complies with these regulations through our agreements.” It also said it had no knowledge of the third-party wage claim and could not comment on it. Good American did not respond to repeated emails for comment.

It’s also possible to try to hold retailers liable for wage violations at garment factories by proving that a purchase order was put out at a cost that could not possibly be met without shortchanging workers.

David Weil, who oversaw a federal crackdown on the industry while serving as the administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division during the Obama administration, said his agency attempted to do just that toward the end of his term.

“We worked the problem from the ground up. We found out how many minutes it would take to make different items, therefore the wages that would need to be paid for that given some reasonable rate of return and the cost of materials,” he said. “It was a heavy lift.”

The division found contractors received just 73% of the price needed in order to ensure that workers could receive a bare minimum legal wage.

Randy Youngblood, a prominent industry figure who operates Apparel Resources, a Yorba Linda company that monitors contractor compliance for apparel manufacturers, said he supports abolishing the piece rate.

“I am not a proponent of piece rate work in 98% of the garment factories in California. As a time-study engineer, it’s a real science. You need to be on the shop floor checking rates with a stopwatch,” said Youngblood, whose high-end clients include jeans maker Paige and women’s apparel designer Karen Kane.

“If an operator has trouble making the rate, you need to be able to show her where she or he are losing time and how they can pick that time up. The bulk of the sewing contractors we deal with don’t have that level of sophistication,” he said.

Richard Cho, president of the Korean Apparel Manufacturers Assn., which represents hundreds of companies that make clothes for brands and retailers, said an hourly minimum would wipe out the remaining manufacturers that make inexpensive clothes for big discount chains.

“We are not even running small businesses. We are running micro businesses,” he said. Those that could survive it are moving into the “better boutique market,” where higher-quality clothes are sold at a premium.

Still, he doesn’t outright oppose the bill, noting that making retailers responsible for labor violations of subcontractors could help his membership. “Why is it that the [liability] doesn’t go all the way up to the one that has written the bad purchase order? Why does it always have to end with the contractor or the manufacturers?” he said. “That is not fair.”

Nana Atelier, a small manufacturer in Boyle Heights that opened two and a half years ago, was one of the few apparel companies that has sent a letter in support of the bill to legislators.

Co-owners Alnea Farahbella and her husband have their own upscale women’s fashion brand and make clothes for other high-end brands, including New York designer Rachel Comey, in a brightly lit factory with a cheery, yellow floor. She candidly admits the couple’s own brand, Toit Volant, is subsidizing the company, which pays its workers an hourly wage.

That compensation model raises costs, but she believes the company will eventually turn a profit. Farahbella said that as the factory’s reputation has grown, the couple has turned down lowball offers for work.

“We get approached all the time by brands that are selling garments at retail for $400. They are like, ‘We want to pay $20 for this,'” she recounted. “‘You want to pay $20 for your cutting, your sewing, your fabric and you want to sell it for $200 for yourself, and then the retailer will sell it for $400?

“‘You can’t come to us,'” is her reply. “‘We are not desperate.'”

Fashion

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

Published

on

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.

Reading List

Inside our coverage

Mack Weldon’s first CMO, Talia Handler, breaks down her integrated marketing strategy.

Text messages are Rebecca Minkoff’s most successful marketing channel.

Not everyone is embracing “workleisure.”

What we’re reading

Is Richemont dropping Yoox Net-a-Porter?

NFT sales are catching on in fashion.

It’s official: Zendaya’s style is iconic.

Continue Reading

Fashion

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Fashion

The Best Street Style at Paris Fashion Week

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Trending