Founding Merlette in 2016, Marina Cortbawi has put her experience working at some of the most iconic fashion houses into exceptional use.
We spoke to the Australian native, who has called New York home for almost a decade, about her effortless, and self described quiet design aesthetic.
You’ve describe Merlette as the perfect getaway wardrobe, what are some of your must have items in your holiday suitcase?
I pack really light and try to get away with carry on luggage only especially for summer holidays. I bring a few bikinis (Eres is the best for fit and quality), long cotton dresses, denim shorts, a good cropped blouse, Turkish towel, leather sandals, and travel sized beauty products including pure Argan oil and SPF.
The hand embroidered smocking detail, which we can see on the shoulder of the Sant Joseph wrap blouse has become almost a signature to Merlette. What do you love about this detailing and how long have you incorporated this in your garments?
The Sant Josep was the best piece in our very first collection and we like how the hand smocking is loose and molds to the shoulder. We use traditional handwork embroideries in every collection and this is the DNA of Merlette.
You grew up in Australia but have been living in New York for many years now. How long have you been living in New York, what drew you there and how do you think these cities have influenced your style and design aesthetic?
I’ve been living in New York since 2009, so almost a decade now. I was drawn here after living in London because of the energy and because I had family here.
I grew up in Sydney, and that has influenced me in learning how to dress lightly and focus on comfort and good cuts, having versatile pieces both for evening and day, and lots of layering.
In New York, I feel like there is such a fast pace that it also needs to be really easy, so if I can’t zip something up myself or have to squeeze into something then I’m not wearing that! I really have to be comfortable or I look like the clothes are wearing me. My style hasn’t changed that much only that in my 30s I know my own style, and experiment less with trends. So I would say it’s become more understated but a higher focus on fabrics and details VS too many colors and prints.
The UNDONE and Merlette share many similar core beliefs, such as appreciating minimal designs with subtle details and items with everyday wearability. Has this always been important to you and do you have anyone in mind when you design your ranges?
Less is more, is our design philosophy as well as the question of how versatile can a piece be? We want people to be able to wear it more than once, in more than one way! Our design is quiet, and slow and you have to stop to pay attention to the details to appreciate. I think then you can love a piece more and want to hold onto it for longer. When women tell us they couldn’t stop wearing their blouse and dress on repeat then we know it’s a good style and we should do more of that. The collection is also designed with a wide age group in mind, we dress mothers and daughters and also our fit is purposely inclusive.
What does the future hold for Merlette?
We hope to keep on keeping it simple and and focusing on high end natural fabrics, some more day to evening options with more intricate embroideries and knitwear for next fall which holds the same philosophy as our clothes - luxurious natural fibers and subtle details.