Technology has long been the cousin to modernity. When we think of the best markers of the modern world its the TV, the iPad, the Netflix, the Snapchat, the apps - the "conviencing" of technology. Naturally fashion has followed suit merging tech innovation with wearability and style. Merrill + Forbes draws inspiration from the mechanics of daily life, but also the interactions that are often momentary and fleeting. The collection is defined by juxtaposing design and attention to detail, with an emphasis on tailoring and an eclectic use of functional tech materials and custom developed fabrics.
Merrill + Forbes Team: Senior Menswear Designer - Orlinda (Lin) Young, Head of Sales & Social Media - David Kugelmas, Founder & CEO of Carlus Agency (PR agency for Merrill + Forbes) - Julien Carlus, and PR Coordinator for Carlus Agency - Nicole Cheateu.
Jonathan McKinnon: Describe Merrill + Forbes and what the name means.
Merrill + Forbes Team: The name came about in 1997 by Abdul Mannan. The family has been been involved in the textile and ready made garments industry in South and Southeast Asia for over 40 years. In 2014, his daughter, Tajrina decided to pivot business strategy and reintroduce the brand as Merrill + Forbes, adding a critical element of the value proposition, in-house design.
Describe your customer who you call, "the risk-taker of the future."
It's the next generation of people who are comfortable in their own skin. They're willing to take risks by not being afraid to express their style through what they wear.
Discuss what you mean by functional high-fashion.
It's making use of what's going on in the market now and what is needed because people are becoming aware of the environment. We source sustainable fabrics that are technical and functional, so that's where the functional high-fashion comes into play. There's breathability with body regulation in the fabrics we use. We also like to incorporate other new technologies that are in fabric production. The fabrics we use have a futuristic aspect to it, but are very present at the same time.
How does this functional high-fashion play out in the design process (i.e., from the drawing table to the fabrics used and added details)?
When designing it's more like a mix-media art form. We're making everything wearable and each garment has a function to it. The technical part is making sure that everything is wearable for the customer, and yet sustainably sourced at the same time. Each garment has to have the right look whether it's a little bit more avant-garde or conceptual. The wearability aspect is where we want to relate to the customers who are risk-takers, but also you're everyday customer. The inspiration for our Summer '17 collection, which is cycling themed, highlights cycling clothing features. One feature is detachable sleeves on a jacket that converts to a tee shirt. That is normal in cycling clothing tops, but we adapted that into our collection because we haven't really seen that going on in high-fashion. There were certain features in our previous collections that we chose to highlight like we had a pancho, but it was packable which made it very easy to carry while being fashionable. We made our pancho more functional and fashion forward looking with patches, and so forth. Another concept we're pursuing is taking clothing features from the outdoor setting and adapting it to a more sporty look. It's about the fabrics and features used to create our brand's DNA. Our garments is fashionable and can be worn in any setting (i.e., outdoors, indoors, inner-city, and countryside).
How does the brand incorporate science and technology into the design process itself?
We like to use innovative fabrics that are body regulating, water proof, reflective, damage proof, quick drying, and so forth. It's all important to us because it will be to the customer's advantage when they wear our garment that blends functionality with fashion.
What types of fabrics does the brand tend to gravitate toward, and why?
We're pretty strong in outerwear and knits, so when we look at lets say knits for example, we definetly look into something that is moisture wicking, breathable, and body regulating. We look at fabrics from all sources whether it's from Europe, Asia or even North America. That's what we look for in knits, and I would say in outerwear it's a similar sort of thing that we're looking for. We look at trims too such as what is seen in ski wear clothing of which we adapt some of their trim concepts into our garments.
Is there a specific message you wish to carry through each collection?
Yes, in our garments we have a neck-tape that has a message for each season. We're always about inner strength, positivity, and embracing uniqueness. It's always a positive or spiritual message that the wearer can see as it's special for each individual.
How much work went into the preparation for SS '16 NYC Fashion Week?
With each collection there is a different time and action that comes along with it. There are certain things that need to be thought about in addition to the inspiration, types of garments, and how large you want the collection to be. We also have lookbooks, photoshoots, and basically make sure the whole production goes smoothly together. It really is an ongoing process to the very end. A lot of time, action, and love that goes into preparation. We globally source products and work with Tajrina very intensely to come up with the right fabrics for our garments which is top priority. We start off with a concept and it's usually tied to the brand's philosophy, something spiritual or scientific. Tajrina gives us a concept and we would have to brainstorm on the visual and design aesthetics in order to make the concept materialize. For example, this season she gave us law of attraction as a concept to work on. It's not easy for a designer to make clothes that evoke, "oh yeah that's the law of attraction." We had to find something that was a metaphor for law of attraction and build upon it to present a beautiful garment that evoked the concept.
What should we all be expecting for the brand's FW '16 NYC Fashion Week show?
We do a lot of outerwear which is one of our specialities. We'll be sourcing fabrics from all over which again will have certain properties such as reflective, water resistant and other properties that resonate with us. We're at the ground floor and growing, so we're excited to bring it forward and grow this brand to where it needs to be. Every season has a message, but what is more important is that the DNA of Merrill + Forbes evolves after each season. This collection will mix lifestyle with technology, urban and non-urban fashion. We see through the press that people reconiginze us due to our strong look and identity. The design techniques we use will soon be used in industries such as travel, hospitality, fashion, tech, and so forth.
An explorer of men's fashion with inquisitive eyes, born and raised in Lakeview, Long Island. My inspiration comes from nature, city streets and the world wide web. Catch me in a local thrift/consignment store near you.
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