Welcome to our newest editorial initiative, Who What Wear Spotlight, where we'll be using our editorial platform, social following, and ad inventory to turn the spotlight on small businesses that need our support now more than ever. Each week, we'll be highlighting a new fashion or beauty company. If you own a small brand and would like to be considered for the program, please apply here.
Think back to the end of March: We were just getting started sheltering in place in the U.S., and suddenly, Dua Lipa dropped the music video for her song "Break My Heart." As she dances around that dimly lit bar in the itty-bitty, bright red collared crop top, we didn't yet know much we would miss going to bars. Instead, we relished watching Lipa spin around in that mini blazer with her matching red hair clips and tweed miniskirt. Just two years old and Mirror Palais, the maker of that statement top, has already been worn by so many iconic fashion It girls.
Bella Hadid is among them. This summer, she's worn the brand's now sold-out Blue Crush bikini (pictured below) and a yellow collared top that ends at the bra-inspired underwire lining. According to Marcelo Gaia, Mirror Palais's founder, that top is quite controversial: "It's one of those pieces that you either love immensely or hate," Gaia says. "I have a very small line, and my favorite piece I sell is the underwire polo. I love seeing the response people have to it. It's so funny because it's just a top, but for some reason, people react very strongly to it."
"Just a top" may sound like a flippant way to describe one of his designs, let alone his favorite among them, but it would be misguided to read it that way. Gaia breathes so much care and thoughtfulness into his brand, due in large part to the work ethic we learned from his mom, who raised him as a single parent while living essentially alone in a foreign country.
That tenacity has allowed him to think quickly and pivot how he runs his business during a pandemic, opening his shop for one week at a time so that his team can have the bandwidth to fill orders. Sounds like demand is high for this 70s-inspired brand teaming with silk fabrics, mermaid-like halters, large floral prints, cowboy- and businessman-inspired sets, and retro lingerie. Most of the swimwear is sold out for good, which should come as no surprise seeing as it was all over Instagram this summer. Take that as a lesson: Find out when Mirror Palais's online store is open and set your alarm. Keep reading to see how Gaia does it and shop our favorite picks from the "small line."
Tell us about yourselves and your business.
My name is Marcelo Gaia, I'm a 30-year-old first-generation American raised by Brazilian immigrant parents in NY. I started Mirror Palais one year ago as a way to share my personal story through design and art. We are a made-to-order/pre-order business, which allows us to ethically produce clothing in NY, pay our workers fair prices, and control the quality of what we produce.
And if you had to sum up your business in five words or less?
Nostalgic, intimate, daring, romantic, and FUN.
What inspired you to start your business?
Seeing my mom raise me as a single parent but not get the respect she deserved in a corporate setting due to her English and being a woman has inspired me a lot. I never wanted to work for "the man." Being creative feeds my soul, and since I had successfully started another fashion business two years prior to starting Mirror Palais, I knew I was meant to be doing this.
How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
I had not been in New York, where my business is based, for over five months. I moved operations from NY to Cape Cod, where my boyfriend's family has a beachside cottage and we safely quarantined. In New York, I would personally go to my vendors for picking up and dropping off. Being in Cape Cod, the USPS and FedEx have been my lifelines, and we have continued to run although we have been extremely delayed in producing and delivering orders.
After some months of learning, I have moved back to NY and improved our operations for production and delivery. We now open orders for one week at a time and then close while we produce the pre-orders so that we do not overwhelm our team. Our only goal is to make our customers happy, and we have been able to do so successfully during this time thanks to our amazing team.
What has been your proudest moment as a business owner?
Knowing my mom doesn't have to worry about me and my future because I have carved a solid place for myself in the industry after 10-plus years of hard work.
What are two to three of your favorite brands you like to support and why?