In order to have great style, you must first perfect the basics.
The white cotton dresses and blouses from the Brooklyn-based fashion house, Merlette New York, are prime examples of elevated, wardrobe staples. Beautiful sleeves and intriguing silhouettes—designer and founder Marina Cortbawi designs in a space between comfort and chic. “Everything in the collection is 100% cotton,” she told E! News. “I love how it feels on the skin. Cotton is so versatile no matter the season.”
The designer takes inspiration from her global excursions, pointing to the collection’s international appeal. Although her clothes are mainly black and white, she’s all about the details, producing high quality, timeless pieces that are incredibly easy to work in your wardrobe. Clearly, the brand is on to something, as we’ve spotted both Vanessa Hudgens and Liv Tyler rocking her designs.
Want to learn more about the designer? Keep reading!
What was your first job?
I worked in retail at Scanlan & Theodore in Sydney, an Australian clothing brand that is still is one of my favorites.
How did Merlette come to be? Is there an interesting story behind the brand?
The brand is inspired by the women I’ve met whilst traveling. I wanted to create the perfect wardrobe for escapists.
I chose the name Merlette after my holiday in St Barthes. I noticed a town called Merlette. In French, it means to be a bird, and in the English Heraldry, it symbolizes the jetsetter.
Who was the first celebrity ever spotted wearing your designs?
Vanessa Hudgens was the first celebrity to wear Merlette. It gave me goosebumps! She posted a video of herself on Instagram, dancing around the Christmas Tree wearing our red wrap blouse.
If you could dress anyone, who would it be?
What’s a typical day like for you?
Everyday is so different, that’s why I love what I do. A typical day can involve meeting with stylists and press, designing the new collection, working with our pattern makers, overseeing production and shipping out online orders at our Brooklyn studio. We start at 10am and leave the studio by 5pm.
What’s the best part about your career?
I enjoy the freedom of being able to travel the world. I try to combine my work travel with pleasure and so I come back to NYC feeling inspired in a new way. I love going to India to work with the embroiderers. On my next trip, I will visit Udaipur and Rishikesh.
What’s the most daring career risk you’ve taken?
Starting my own brand. I decided to do it without a partner or investors, because I knew exactly what I wanted to do, believed in it and took the plunge. I would not have done it with out the support and encouragement of longtime friends in the industry, my boyfriend Ivo and my mum!
Who are your career heroes?
There are so many, but if I had to name one, it would be Natalie Massenet. She is the most inspiring female visionary in the industry.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and from who?
“Creativity is your commodity” from Ian Scott Kettle at Central Saint Martins.
List five things on your desk right now.
A citrine crystal from my brother, Rodin hand crème, a candle, colored markers and a Rhodia notebook.
Finish the sentences below.
Today for lunch I had… Empanadas
The first website I log onto every day is… The Business of Fashion
The last thing I Googled was… flights to India!
My usual coffee order is… Toby’s Estate from the Extraction Lab at Industry City
If I wasn’t doing this job, I’d be… a writer or journalist.