Brooklyn Fashion House Merlette Channels Art Deco Vibes for Fall 2022

Marina Cortbawi established Brooklyn-based Atelier Merlette in 2016 and has gradually grown the fashion brand into a successful business by focusing on carefully crafted quality garments that her customers seek as lifetime investments.

Now in its sixth year, Merlette has grown without outside investors, and retailers like Matches, Saks and Nordstrom now carry the brand. Direct-to-consumer sales increased by 40% in 2021.

And while the prices are higher than what you’ll find at fast fashion chains across the country, we’re talking quality over quantity, less better and a lot less cost than the luxury brands that sell themselves. often rely on name recognition.

Cortbawi is committed to responsible production and practices – garments are ethically made in India by artisans who are paid fair wages in safe environments. It only uses natural fibers including pima cotton made in factories that meet OEKO-TEX certifications.

This summer, the brand presented Merlette Collection 12 for Pre-Fall 2022, which Cortbawi says is a tribute to Art Deco. Featuring quirky prints and patterns evoking that era, design details include seamlessly integrated eyelets and dropped waistlines in their signature pieces, including the best-selling Soliman dress.

Knit with crochet details and feminine pointelle is another highlight, rendered in poppy red, “Byzantine” blue and Deco prints. But if you prefer a more muted palette, don’t worry, most styles also come in soothing neutrals.

You’ll find carefully crafted and artfully placed touches like hand embroidery, pleats and smocking.

I reached out to Cortbawi to find out more about her company, her designs, and her plans for the rest of 2022.

What inspired you in art deco for this collection?

“The art deco period is so rich in detail, and we found inspiration in the architecture, jewelry and vintage posters of the Swedish flower market. The prints, embroideries, knit techniques and constructions of the garments in the collection all have an ornamental element, from the fan flower pattern in our pointelles and crochet knits, to the poppy that inspired the print and eyelets. Diamond shapes are seen in the lace trims and smocked details, and there are dresses with subtle wave constructions accentuating the waistline. The color palette is very much from that era: poppy red, dusty pink through to bright blue and burnt orange. The RHODE dress in our deco floral print best sums up all the elements of inspiration.

Did the pandemic influence your design process for this collection?

“Since the pandemic, we’ve been designing at least 2-3 months earlier than usual and that gives us more time for the most important part, the research and model building which all happens in our Brooklyn studio. I think that alone has improved our process and allowed us to deepen research and development, and even explore new categories. Of course, styles also change as our lifestyles evolve, from the perfect house dress (sales of our Paradise dress have increased tremendously during the pandemic and remain a best-seller today) to a greater focus on styles designed for parties, events, and travel – a throwback to clothing.

For which client are you designing?

“Our client is global, the appeal of Merlette is that it is suitable for Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, London and Sydney. Our main markets are in these cities and customers generally buy designer clothes and are demanding in terms of fabrics, feel and have a preference for natural fibres. They are looking for value in a different way, not for an occasion, but for something to keep and cherish for years to come and that can be worn in many ways. It’s also popular with a fairly wide age range, I always use the example that Merlette is worn by all my friends and my team, and also our mothers. Now that we’ve expanded our size ranges and have popular items at our opening prices, we’re also starting to see a younger clientele.

Do you have any exciting plans for the rest of the year?

“We’ve worked with an incredible group of creative talent on our campaigns this year, and I look forward to continuing this collaborative process. It’s been such a joy to grow and explore a new side to Merlette. I’m also delighted to be traveling abroad again and enjoying some welcome time off with my family in Spain this summer.