What happens when a multi-disciplinary artist discovers denim?

In the case of Denimcratic founder and designer Gabriella Meyer, it becomes the canvas for politically-charged statements, one-of-a-kind prints and boundary-pushing silhouettes. The recent University of Michigan graduate turned her passion for art and textile design into a bespoke fashion brand that challenges the status quo about design, gender and sustainability.

“Denim big part of our culture. Our generation has democratized jeans. We’re not consumed by labels, we’re more concerned with comfort and the fit of jeans,” the Gen Z designer told RIVET.

Inspired by streetwear, Chicago-based Meyer turns upcycled jeans collected from fleas, vintage markets and through donations into bespoke denim pieces. Key designs include patchwork denim puffer coats, denim bikinis, laser engraved jean jackets and denim hats.

“Taking jeans apart and making something entirely new that someone desires is an appeal concept, but there’s also a lot more work to it,” she said.

For instance, creating denim puffer coats proved to have its own set of unique challenges. “Puffer coats are supposed to be light but also puffy—that’s challenging with denim,” Meyer said. “But we got it down to a good formula now. It’s a process making them but they turn out so beautiful.”

Denimcratic’s signature is its laser prints, which span newsprint and camouflage, to plaid and custom logos designs. Meyer points out that laser engraving denim is expensive and meticulous, but the result is a more sustainable textile design that could never be achieved through screen printing. As it ages, the design fades, enhancing the jean’s authentic look.

Meyer works with customers individually on one-of-a-kind pieces. Prices start at $75 for bucket hats and go up to $1,650 for winter coats. Meyer is conscious about Denimcratic’s hefty price tags but says, “You have to decide what’s worth the price tag. The work I’m doing takes time and the equipment is expensive. You have to communicate that to the customer.”

For now, social media and a creative website—complete with mock magazine covers and blog posts about Trump’s America—help tell Denimcratic’s story. Meyer says traditional retail and wholesale isn’t for her. In fact she stopped accepting e-commerce orders in favor of taking orders over e-mail. However, the designer is considering opening pop-up shops.

“The artist in me wants to be able to control the curated space. I want to decide where [the line] goes and what type of storytelling component it has to it,” she explained.

Coming in on six months, Meyer says she’s happy in the direction Denimcratic is going in. “I’m getting my feet grounded and I have some seamstresses now that lets me explore new designs. Now that I’m getting more time to do design, I want to focus more on the curation and art direction of the line.”

In 2018, she will see her work produced on a larger scale. Meyer is partnering with denim designer Marta Goldschmied and the Los Angeles-based design hub, Genius Group, on a project that makes a bold statement about workplace sexual harassment. The design is a riff on the contemporary power suit.

“I’m really interested in politics—that has always been part of my art and it is something that has been super important to me. I’m happy we can bring that into the design,” she said.

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