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 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.
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 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.
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.
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, basically 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, to me, the idea of bringing people on is like a ship. 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. 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. 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 Lang. So, I feel like there this a 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 Hedi [Stanton] on Thursday [October 21st]. 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.END
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