Sunday Stamping with Merline Labissiere
fashion designer, philanthropist, friend, general badass
Merline is one of those people who you want to be more like. She has one woman dance parties, she creates, she encourages, and shines her light so bright I need sunnies. She's the girl you quote when life gets down. Sure, she's been on Project Runway and is super talented, but she's also incredibly approachable. She's transparent, bold, and honest. She's my friend and confidant.
I invited her over for dinner and made a favorite- Pollo Guisado. We call each other "island sister" since she's Haitian and I'm Dominican. We have neighboring homelands and we share a love of plantains, clear water, and the nicest people you'll ever meet. Merline yelled out, "Yaaaaay!" when she learned about our dinner menu. I will share my recipe for Pollo Guisado on another post.
After we ate dinner, I started the interview with a couple of questions from a fan and blogger, Idalisse Sandoval. I recorded the interview for documentation purposes, however, Idalisse and others suggested that I post the audio because it's fun to listen to. Here it is (script below):
Question from Idalisse- "I was really amazed with how she handled herself on Project Runway. You can see in certain situations that people were not very nice to her, didn’t understand her aesthetic or her art. She handled it with such grace and class. She seemed so confident. How did she develop that trait?"
ML: Good question! I don’t know if I’m oblivious to it or if I’m just in my own world. I just create and I try not to entertain it or what people are saying about me. For me, on a personal level, I’m a people pleasing kind of person. I struggle a lot with pleasing people and their opinion of me. The way I handle it is I went through a whole phase of my life where I had to realize that my identity is in Christ. That’s a hard thing to realize, even as a Christian. I don’t put my identity based on what people say about me, but in what Christ/God says about me. So when I do get in situations where the world or a certain person doesn’t like me, it doesn’t affect me because I’m not putting my hope in them. I don’t know if that makes sense but for me that right there gave me a lot of strength. I’m like, “You said this. Okay, whatever.” That’s how I think God prepared my heart for the next level of this.
Second question from Idalisse - “What’s your best advice for someone who doesn’t know anything about fashion and is trying to build a fashion forward wardrobe?”
ML: Number one, get rid of what they have in their closet. There’s a known fact that you only wear 25% of what you actually have in your closet. For me, I started wearing a minimal lifestyle when it comes to wardrobe. The key is to buy less but buy quality. If you buy simple, quality stuff they will last more than just buying like, “Oh, this is cute.” So I think buying less and kind of knowing what your style is, instead of just going with the trend. Don’t follow the trend because then you’re not an individual and you’re just doing what everyone else is doing. Do what you want to do, but do it with style. What I love to do, since clothes are so expensive, is to mix new and vintage together. If you want a leather jacket, you can get a real quality leather jacket at a vintage consignment shop. I think that’s one way to set you apart. Do you! I stopped looking in the mirror a long time ago. Sometimes I look when I put makeup on but I don’t go back to check if it’s good or not. I just do me! It’s hard to be you. I struggle a lot with that because I’m always outside the closet, always outside the box, always different. But yeah, get rid of what you have. When there’s too much stuff it’s hard for you to think. Surround yourself with only the things you love! I stopped buying things I like and only buy things I love! We only have one life to live so why would I surround myself with this I just like?
Me: You’re not so-so, so why should your clothes be?
ML: Right? Like if I go somewhere and I don’t love, like passionately love it and I don’t think I’m going to think about it tomorrow, I don’t buy it.
Me: What is something that you do to “Treat Yo Self 2016?”
ML: Treating myself on a budget is basically getting coffee and sightseeing in Savannah. The other day I was so stressed, I went and got a chai latte, which is my favorite. There’s a free boat on the river that just goes back and forth and I’ll just sit there for hours.
Me: Where’s your favorite Chai Latte from?
ML: The best is from Back in the Day Bakery. They’re like top top top top! I do a lot of sightseeing, go to the bamboo gardens, and just get lost for a couple of hours. That’s like my fave. I think for me, I go places where I can just be free and clear my head.
Treating myself with money, I get a full body massage! I went and got one last week, it was like $80.
Me: What kind of massage do you like? Swedish or softer ones?
ML: Swedish, deep tissue. Yes, I had so much stress from Project Runway and Atelier (Merline’s recent project). Forget that, all these knots. I’m like, “I had an interesting year.”
Me: “You got ran over by the bus and ran back over again,” That’s what happened to your back (referring to her Project Runway quote).
Merline then shares how I should upload this interview…I do take her advice...but don’t edit that part out because I think it’s funny.
Me: What’s a perfect Saturday for you?
ML: I wake up early. No, no, no, no, no. I sleep in because I never sleep in, even on Saturdays. I go get breakfast, I go to a park, and go window shopping. I love to go into shops and look around, not buy anything, like Paris Market. Maybe going to the beach and hanging out with some friends. Part of that day would be laying on a hammock. Reading a good book.
Me: Are you reading anything right now? If so, what?
ML: No, I’m not reading anything right now. I’m staying at a friend’s house so it's whatever they have. I saw a book on prayer so I started reading that. All my stuff is in storage right now anyway, so I’m not settled.
Me: So, I know you read the bible on a regular basis. What is something that stands out to you?
ML: I think recently, one this that God has been showing me is…I’m an emotional person.
Me: Oh really? (sarcastically)
ML: (laughs) I make a lot of decisions based on how I feel or if I feel fear on something instead on looking to Christ for the answer. I think that’s a challenge this season of my life. I started reading Corinthians. I just try to be active. I’m a big worshiper. Just worshiping God. I think recently God has been showing me to “rely on Me more than your emotions.” I think it's hard because I’m an artist and my life doesn’t make sense. Like, if you look at Project Runway, that doesn’t make sense. I got this far because it does not make sense! Even today He was saying, “Focus on me, don’t look at your circumstances.” Because sometimes I’m like, “How am I going to manufacturer this?” The list can go on. You know when you go through something and think, "I fear something, what does that mean?" Instead of saying that is a gift from God, I start relying on God and his Word. I’ve been an emotional person all my life.
Me: So, I did make you a playlist. Every time I hear “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding, I think of you because you have shown me that anything can happen in life.
ML: You never know what life can bring! You never know what life is going to bring it’s 2006 and I’m like…
Me: (laughing) 2006? It’s 2016! Lord, you’re 10 years behind. I still feel like it’s the 90s sometimes.
ML: (laughing) Really? Can that be a Facebook quote?
Me: People are dressing like it’s the 90s. What do you think about that?
ML: I don’t know. I’m slowly getting out of the hipster phase. I went to art school and was a big hipster. I think after going to Europe and seeing how sophisticated people are, it just changed my brand I just wanted to be more modern and clean. As an artist, because it became popular, I tend to go the other way. It’s oversaturated.
Me: You’re making a great name for yourself. You’ve got a lot going on! What are you most excited about?
ML: I think I’m going to be most excited when my garment is hanging on a rack, working with a manufacturer, with a label. When that comes to life and I get to say that I’m selling in three stores or four stores. I’m looking forward to saying, “You can get this in a small, medium, and large," instead of me having to make a small, medium, or large.
I have no idea what next year will bring. It could be big! My life is like high highs or low lows. Like Project Runway, Atelier, then what I am I going to do next? It’s always extreme!
Me: Extreme Merline! What is something you learned about yourself from Project Runway?
ML: I learned that I’m really different. People are like, “No, you are different.” But really, even surrounded by artists, I’m still different. I sing and I’m in my own world. I was really outside the box. After Project Runway and making an outfit in 9 hours, I can do anything. If I have an idea, I don’t sit on it anymore because maybe I’ll make it and fall on my butt faster. I really realized I can do anything.
Me: Well, everyone already knew you could do anything. Finally, you realized it!
ML: Yeah, you have to learn that about yourself! The biggest gift is dreaming. Not everyone can dream. Dreaming is a gift.
After our interview I asked Merline want she wanted stamped and she said she wanted a bracelet with her brand, Roman numerals which spell out her name/brand.
Check out Merline Labissiere's designs here.