Gabriella Meyer: Sustainable Fashion Forged at Stamps
In 2017, the critics for Gabriella Meyer’s (BFA ‘17) denim streetwear creations included Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design professors and fellow students. In 2022, Meyer’s work was on the national stage as a contestant on Amazon Prime Video’s Making the Cut. Her critics included fashion icons Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nicole Richie, and Winnie Harlow, to name a few.
Meyer represented her clothing design company, DENIMCRATIC in the reality television competition.
“Competing on the show was very different from my day-to-day life running my own business,” Meyer said. “Just being next to all of these different designers who use different fabrics was super interesting to me. It was nice to have had that space where I was next to all these other designers. I got to ask for their feedback, and I valued their opinions.”
While Meyer didn’t “make the cut” and reach the end of the competition, she is thankful for the platform and opportunity.
“I wanted to bring my business onto the platform and have people want to check out my brand,” Meyer said.
Stamps: DENIMCRATIC’s Birthplace
DENIMCRATIC, Meyer’s brand and an industry leader in sustainable fashion, got its start at Stamps.
Meyer first conceptualized DENIMCRATIC as part of her senior thesis. She was able to harness her passion for fashion and wearable art within the expectations of the Stamps curriculum. After researching the history of denim and blue jeans, the democratization of denim, and laser engraving methods, DENIMCRATIC was born.
When Meyer realized that her Stamps peers were secretly trying on her samples in the studio, she knew the brand could be a hit.
“I thought, ‘Well, clearly there’s something here. People like what I’m making, I’m interested in it, and I want to continue exploring. Maybe I should try to fully start this business after college,’” Meyer said.
Meyer credits Stamps for showing her the possibility of fashion design as a career. Meyer originally went to college with an illustration and animation career in mind, but was exposed to a wide variety of mediums.
“Clearly, I ended up in a very different area,” Meyer said. “My mom had always told me that I needed to explore and go somewhere where I could try new and different art mediums. I really got that experience at Stamps. That’s not something you see at all universities.”
Meyer’s Stamps experience contained many of the core practices she utilizes today. At Stamps, a Fiber and Textile class first introduced Meyer to screen printing and textile design – methods she’s come to love. She experimented by laser engraving newsprints on denim – a key narrative for her brand. She “monopolized” Stamps Lecturer II Annica Cuppetelli’s sewing studio space, where she learned sewing basics. In the summer of her Junior year, she worked in an internship with esteemed designer Laura Pulice-Petrielli, designer of Vex Clothing, which opened doors in the fashion world.
“My mom had always told me that I needed to explore and go somewhere where I could try new and different art mediums. I really got that experience at Stamps.”
“When you are running a small business, you’re basically covering all ends of the business. From sketching and sewing, to creating lookbooks, marketing plans and pushing sales, there are so many things happening at once. Stamps really taught me to be multifaceted in that regard,” Meyer said.
Meyer says that she often mentions Stamps experiences, such as the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series, amongst her network.
“The Speaker Series was a great way to show all of the different career opportunities within the creative field. Every single week, it was a different person with a different background. It was so eye opening and inspiring,” Meyer said. “It’s crazy that Iris van Herpen came and spoke while I was in college. I remember her saying that her start was so different from where she is today, and that resonated with me. Someone will just bring up Iris and her work, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I saw her speak once.’ People are surprised, and say, ‘Where did you go to school?’”
While Meyer is the Designer and CEO of DENIMCRATIC, she enlists help from other Stamps alums, like Frannie Gembis (BFA ‘17). Gembis has designed t‑shirts for the company.
“It’s fun to work with someone who operates at the same level,” Meyer said. “I think it’s because we had the same education. We understand how to check in throughout the process.”
Clothing With a Purpose
Considering Gabby Meyer’s free time in college was spent political cartooning for The Michigan Daily, it’s no surprise that her wearable art has deeper meaning.
Meyer’s pieces are known for their transferred newsprint messaging that often makes a political statement.
In 2018, the brand made headlines with their take on the #MeToo movement. Meyer collaborated with Marta Goldschmied of denim label Made Gold to create a limited edition line that took a stand against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Meyer’s business is also a prime example of sustainability. DENIMCRATIC has made it their brand mission to “eliminate as much waste and carbon footprint as possible” through recycled materials. Meyer said that the ethical choices the brand makes also plays a role in their overall aesthetic.
“I always gravitated towards wearing vintage clothing and secondhand things. At DENIMCRATIC, I didn’t want to buy into the consumerism of overproduction. And then there’s this personal style aesthetic of having something so unique, and no one else having it,” Meyer said.
The one-of-a-kind creations have caught the attention of various celebrities. Bella Hadid, Alicia Keys, Issa Rae, Florida Georgia Line, and Camila Cabello have all jumped on the opportunity to wear custom, sustainable fashion with a deeper meaning.
Despite the now high profile status of DENIMCRATIC, Meyer’s appearance on Making the Cut, and celebrities modeling her brand, Meyer still remembers her roots. Stamps students, not celebrities, were the first to try on Meyer’s creations in the senior studio. Before relocating to Los Angeles, Meyer operated out of her family’s home in Chicago.
“I don’t think I would be able to be where I am today without my Stamps education and the ability to have my parents’ support,” Meyer. “There’s no façade here. It takes a village, and I’m so appreciative of the support that I’ve gotten from family, teachers, and friends.”
Story by Katelyn Stuck.