Gabriella Meyer: Humble Hustler
By Klaudia Zychowska
Illustration by Rebbeca Baruc
The daughter of a painter and sculptor, Gabriella Meyer was exposed to the art world at a young age. She remembers her mother giving her art lessons which often resulted in bickering between them because of the different ways they approach art. Meyer is technical and particular, while her mother is gestural and freeform. Throughout the years, her mother has continued to be there, helping to nurture Meyer’s talent and pushing her to continue working toward her creative goals.
“My mom would tell me that when I was a kid, everyone would draw stick figures and I would draw aliens, and that’s when she knew something was different with me,” she laughed.
As Meyer worked to hone in on her craft, she attended a college in Michigan, one drastically different than the Chicago in which she grew up. In Michigan, there was a thick line between fashion and art. Meyer did not participate much in the typical college experience, remembering how her parents laughed at her for only going to half a football game. When she would show her professors her designs, they would criticize it for being fashion, not art. Still, she is grateful for the experience of studying in Michigan.
Although there weren’t many fashion focused courses and professors at the college, she was allowed to become an artist with a myriad of interests, rounding her and her skills out as a whole, giving her the opportunity to explore other mediums that she would not have been exposed to at a fashion school. With the open mentality “don’t knock it till you try it,” her creative energy has made for a diverse portfolio, filled with mediums ranging from illustration to political cartooning to animation.
Sophomore year of college, she created “Pussy Pillows” as a final project for a class. She taught herself how to sew, collected hair from salons, and invited volunteers to take pictures with her work. The project was a commentary on women having the right to do what they want with their bodies and to her, the most powerful part was the photoshoot itself. Watching the girls feel uncomfortable at first and then become more comfortable, embracing each other, felt empowering to Meyer as an artist and creative visionary. The project was finished around the same time that Trump’s vulgar comments came out, highlighting the importance of the pillows and the feeling of strength women feel when they look at them.
At first sight, “Pussy Pillows” might seem loud and crassly vulgar, especially because pillows in the shape of a female’s private parts with pubic hair would not typically be seen in the living rooms of people around America. But the process of being accustomed to them is similar to that of being comfortable with your own body, at first timid, and then eventual acceptance, embracing it. It’s a journey, one where women hopefully end up telling the world that their body is nobody else’s but their own and only they have power over it.
Art is meant to make you look twice and change your ways of thinking, and that’s something Meyer does very well.
Confidence in what she is creating is stubbornly essential to her. If she does not believe in what she is working on, then it is difficult for her to put her heart into it. This makes her vision entirely her own, with her energy is visibly throbbing though her works. It is what makes stylists and customers reach out to her. She loves the freedom she has when she creates. Her times of doubt disappear completely when she hears her friends complaining about how much they hate their day jobs, fully knowing that she would not want to be doing anything else.
In her senior year of college, Meyer began exploring the possibilities denim withheld for her. It was then that she decided to dedicate her time to learning textile art, because it was something that resonated with her personally. She felt it was an adequate tool to express her political frustrations that stemmed from everything that was going on politically, especially the Trump inauguration.
“With denim, there are so many undertones of different demographics, and the evolution of denim wearers from the Industrial Revolution to now,” she explained. “There’s so much to say about it.”
Her brand, Denimcratic, took its first steps in March 2017 and became a shopping platform in July of the same year, soon after Meyer’s college graduation. With her targeted demographic of young adults, she was grateful to have started the brand while still in college, surrounded by her market. The positive feedback that she received from her peers gave her the reassurance and confidence to continue pursuing her unique vision.
Although activism is not immediately noticeable in all of Denimcratic’s pieces, it is there in the subtle form of sustainable fashion. While denim has been around since the Industrial Revolution, Meyer is reimagining it in this current political sphere. Some of her most politcally vocal designs are from the We Wear the Pants collections, in which Meyer printed news articles about sexual harassment on the garments. An emphatiatic and sensitive person, she is deeply pained seeing all the hate, violence, and discrimination happening in the world right now. Thus, activism is extremely important to Meyer and has become an outlet for her to release her frustrations in a poignant and effective way.
“I used to read the news all the time, and now I don’t because there’s too much of that going on,” she said. “We become desensitized to it. There are too many breaking news alerts… [In the We Wear the Pants collection, it was] less so about those articles but more so about the desentization by the media and me putting it on a new form. People are more drawn to it and are more likely to read it.”
There is no denying the intensity of Gabriella Meyer’s work. Despite having designed clothes for Beyonce, Shakira, and Sza, she is stubbornly humble and completely focused on her next project and design. Meyer admits to not knowing how to have a day off, but that ethic pays off. Denimcratic is incredibly successful and making big waves in the fashion world right now.
Happy where she is right now, Meyer is creating within a multitude of different mediums, enjoying the success of Denimcratic. Her mother continues to be a big part of her life and her business—she is Denimcratic’s manager of finances and is always ready to lend a hand. The third floor of their home is the brand’s studio, so Meyer has the comfort of working at home, with her manager of finances is downstairs.
Although she does take into account her own taste and style when designing, she barely ever wears her own work. She views her designs as pieces of art, preferring to see them on other people, not on herself. Denimcratic continues to thrive as a business, and we should all await in anticipation what Meyer will do next—it will be both inevitably brilliant and important.