Myriam Marcela: Fashion Designer

From Guadalajara to Portland, Marcela Dyer of MyriamMarcela fashion has brought us designs as brilliant and refreshing as her personality.

From a very young age Dyer has known that being a fashion designer was more than just a childhood fantasy. Through planning and hard work Dyer has taken her lifelong passion and turned it into a career. Not only has this mother of three managed to start her own business, she has done it from home and in a matter of months. MyriamMarcela’s fashion designs have gone from a concept to a touring fashion line in less than a year.

Between creating original designs, doing vintage renewals, and creating commissioned pieces, it is incredible that she has time to do anything else! Dyer, a busy woman to say the least, is nothing short of a champion at utilizing her time, “when my youngest goes to school all day…It gives me the opportunity to…take advantage of those hours, then literally drop the needle, drop the pencil — whatever I’m doing — so I can go and get them from school and be home with them”.

Her entire persona teems with energy and warmth, Dyer is one of the most genuine people one could ever encounter. Her brilliant personality shines throughout her interactions with others as well as in her designs. Filled with passion and excitement, Dyer shares her story.

Tell me about your transition from Mexico to Portland.

Ok, when I was 19 I was, you know having fun being in Mexico with friends. Then somehow some connections worked out, like a friend of a friend moved to Portland, then another friend. You always want to look for another opportunity, and I wanted to go and study English–I hope my English is better, because it wasn’t! But that wasthe main reason, I wanted to study english. So I had this friend that went, and they kept pushing me, so I said okay, let’s go for six months. That was in 2002. That was the initial reason, and then I stayed because I met my husband! I wouldn’t change it, twelve years later and I’m still here! It has been fun, I am very happy. But yes, mainly it was wanting to look for another opportunity. In my country there is a point where you just want to grow more and sometimes, unfortunately, you don’t have the resources there.

So you grew up in Mexico?

Yes. In Guadalajara.

How did you get into fashion?

Oooh, that’s another story! Ever since I was little — I think I got it from my mom — every time she would give me a dress, I would totally transform it to something new. She would never get mad, but she would say, “What happened with the dress I just bought you?!!”. It would be a puffy dress with puffy sleeves and I would make it into a graph skirt and a top. So ever since I was about ten, I started to hand sew. At school, thankfully, we had a class for sewing, and I was super good at it, it was my favorite one! Then I started doing everything by hand and one day after high school my mom said, “guess what? I found a fashion design school”. YES! So I started there. But ever since I was little I always loved to change and do things with fabric.

It sounds like you’ve always wanted to do fashion design. Was there ever anything else you thought you may want to go into?

No. (laughs)

Sometimes you just know, no?

Yeah, exactly! My husband always makes fun of me because I say that if I weren’t a fashion designer, I’d probably be working for NASA, or a be a Flamenco dancer.

Do you dance Flamenco?

No! (laughs). So it’s just these crazy ideas that we come up with. But it always comes back to fashion. They’re just ideas, it was always fashion.

Where did you go to school for fashion?

The school was called Instituto de Moda y Diseño, which is “Institute of Fashion and Design” in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was a great school, I loved it so much. It was small and I learned a lot. My teachers were amazing. It was a fun time, a fun career. They closed it, unfortunately. The director and owner decided to close it. I haven’t been in touch, but I’m sure there are still connections there.

How large was the school?

It was small. I think in my class there were probably ten. That was one generation, so at the same time in another class — you know, there is always someone ahead or behind you — there were probably ten. So ten, ten and ten for each group.

So there must have been a lot of focus and attention for each student.

Oh yeah, I really loved that. I’m very thankful for that school.

What are some designers that influence or inspire you?

Gosh, that’s a tough question because all of them. All of them inspire me, seriously! It’s all of them because, you know, everybody has something to put on the table for me. Everybody. Either it’s the detail, the movement of the fabric, or it’s a simple idea. I think we’re lucky to be in a place where there’s a lot of diversity of ideas. I can’t choose one. Every time I look at a magazine or a runway, or a show — anything — I mean there’s always something that inspires me. People that are well known inspire me, as well as people locally. I see art here in Portland and it’s amazing, I mean, everything, all the time can be inspiring.

Is there a particular piece of yours that you are most proud of or most excited about?

Leopard Jacket-Marcela
Leopard Jacket – Myriam Marcela

I am most proud of my line which is the Vintage Renewal. I really like that one because for me it’s super fun to work with something that is already there and give it a new life. It’s kind of what I did when I was ten, right? (laughs). So I really enjoy that one. Seeing the creation and seeing the before and after. Also, when I am taking the seams apart I am thinking, “who was wearing this? What year?”

It’s like there was already a story to this piece.

Yeah! I feel honored to be taking it apart, and laying it flat on the table to start working on a new design. It takes a little longer but at the end I am happy to work with what’s there. I am proud of that line because I enjoy it a lot.

Do you sell your items?

Online, yes. That’s a problem though with vintage renewal, there is just the one size because there is just one item. The size depends on the amount of fabric I have. Sometimes I start out wanting to do one size and then I notice that the end is starting to come out of the fabric. So I start thinking, “ok, let’s add another piece, or we can go down a size”. For me my pieces are kind of like art pieces that you could hang on the wall. I know that there will be someone that looks at them and falls in love. Then if it fits it’s meant to be, and the story starts all over again. I wish I could have more of the Leopard jacket, but it has its own personality and I can’t duplicate that. But I can totally work on the same ideas and create some other similar piece, but with different fabric. There will always be just the one copy, but that’s vintage renewal.

Tell me more about some of the challenges with vintage renewal, sizing, finding specific textiles, and working with different materials.

Oh yeah, for example I do believe in reusing a lot. So when I see a piece that has a print that I love, but it’s made of polyester, for example, I do still want to use it. Then I start thinking about a more simple design so I can reuse it, or if I can use it as lining. The best for me though are the silks. I love the silks, especially all of the vintage ones, they’re so beautiful! A challenging piece was the Tracy Jacket, or for me I call it the “Artist Jacket”. Every time I see it I think “Oh! An artist could be inside of this jacket!” any type of artist. That jacket was made from a bomber jacket, which was puffy and big. It was so hard! All of my vintage renewals are a challenge, every single one. I can literally spend two hours just looking at the fabric laid out on the table. I will end up having a little tiny hole that would just ruin it. I would need to change that, shift the pattern somewhere else. Then I encounter a pattern design that would go together with another side, you know, because you have to balance prints. I love it! I love it because it’s a challenge! But that’s the main challenge that I encounter, making it all fit — the sizing, the patterns, the print, and balancing it all. It’s tough, but rewarding.

How do you come across pieces that you work with? Do you seek out particular things, or do things tend to come to you? What is that like?

Electric Bloom Dress-Marcela
Electric Bloom Dress – Myriam Marcela

When I travel, there is always a space in my agenda to go vintage shopping. No matter where I go — Mexico, San Francisco, or Vegas, or anywhere I go. I just go where the stores are and go shopping. That’s the most fun for me because I get to see it and touch it, and it is helpful. If I can’t do that then I look on the internet and I bid on items. That’s also fun, but it’s happened to me many times — which is a risk you take — where you see the fabric and go “Whoa!”, and then you get it and it’s not what you were expecting. That happens, and those pieces are usually polyester. I don’t have a problem working with polyester, but when I go and shop I will buy organic or natural fibers. I do believe in order to support the production of textiles I want to support who does the least damage to the earth. I like to try and work with things that are eco-friendly. I know that with polyester they use chemicals, but if it’s already made I’ll want to use it. Otherwise, if I don’t use it it will just be sitting there. But in order to get my pieces, it’s going towards it, and finding it, and touching it. Or I bid on things online and I win them! Some websites are very specific about what they have, and others are not, so you have to take a risk.

Since you do a lot of vintage renewal, have you found that there is a particular era or decade with materials or styles that influence and inspire you?

Good question. Actually, I think all of them. The era lets me know how the garment was made. A long time ago there weren’t any sergers, so you can tell those garments apart by the seems inside. I am happy to have the tools to produce something more high quality. Before it was hard to work when you don’t have all of these machines and tools, and you can see it in the work. It is easier to work with a piece from the 80s because it is made better, and it’s easier to take apart than a piece from the 50s. Pieces from the 50s can be like a puzzle! *laughs*. But I love all of thedecades. All of the silks, and some styles from the eighties with the wild prints and puffy sleeves are great. But just the other day I found something that was very interesting and colorful, — what was the era with all of the big prints on the couches and the walls? The 70s! It was from the 70s and it was just beautiful, but the fabric was thick which made it really hard. When you have a beautiful print and the fabric is very hard or stiff it makes it difficult to work with. I love all of the eras, it just depends on whether it is easy to take it apart or not. But for me they’re all pretty.

Are all of your designs original?

Yes

What is that process like? Creating a design?

It depends on each line. For example, if we talk about the Ready to Work, that is from me. That one comes from inspiration anywhere, whether I’m looking at a magazine, or on the street, even the people around me inspire me. Then I think “how would I make that?”, then I think about what fabric. After that you have more room to expand because you’re not limited to a dress that is already there. Basically you’re free to just do and create. I think with all designers that’s where you have a blank canvas and you can do whatever you want versus when you already have something there, like the Vintage Renewal where the design is different.

I will have a piece and put it on the mannequin and sit there and look at it and start thinking about what is it going to be. Sometimes as soon as I see something on a hanger when I buy it I think “you’re going to be a jacket” or “you’re going to be a skirt”, I can totally see it! Last time when I was starting to work I encountered flaws that disallowed me to do what I was thinking in the beginning, but that’s rare. But thankfully I have the image then I think “ok this is going to be a jacket”, then it’s what kind of jacket? How much material do I have? Like the Leopard one, I added the side panels. That one was left over from a dress that I made into a blouse. From the skirt and the sleeves of that dress, I made the jacket. The scarf, which I used for the lining, I found in Victoria, Canada. The tie (that’s used for the side panels) is from Mexico. In that case I think “okay a jacket”. But I have a bucket of reusable leftovers so I always dig in there.

the tracy jacket vintage renewal myriam marcela
The Tracy Jacket – Myriam Marcela

What I also love about vintage is how two pieces from two different eras, from two different stories become one! So in order to design vintage renewal I just work with what I’ve got. There’s a book called Beautiful Mistakes, it’s for kids, but it talks about how a mistake is an opportunity to create something beautiful, it’s true. The Vintage Renewal especially, is something I use that with a lot. I will start with an idea and I will see a flaw or even a mistake and then it turns out to be what it was meant to be, and I love it. Like the Tracey Jacket, in the one pocket there is a little arrow because there was a flaw there, and I thought about how I could change that. I design while I work,because as you go you find things that don’t work, but in the end it turns out to be what it was meant to be.

Do you work from home?

I do actually. I actually just started in September because my youngest is now old enough to go to school for the full day. For me it was a struggle when I became a mom because my dream of having my own line and working a lot was tough while raising little ones. I ended up being in a situation where it was too hard. My mother said to me “Marcela, there is a time and a season for everything”, so that helped me. I had to just focus on being a mom and do my best at whatever was in front of me right then. Then I had this vision, when my youngest goes to school all day I wanted to work from home. It gives me the opportunity to send them to school, take advantage of those hours, then literally drop the needle, drop the pencil — whatever I’m doing — so I can go and get them from school and be home with them. So I work from home right now, but one day I will have another place.

So you’ve been doing this since September?

Yes. Not long, but it’s the work that really counts. I can just get up a do it. It’s rewarding because if it’s something that you love and have a passion for it will never be bad because it’s something you look forward to. I am very happy that I’m finally doing this, all of the puzzle pieces just fell into place.

Epulet Jacket-Marcela
Epulet Jacket – Myriam Marcela

What was your About Face moment?

When I moved here then I started gathering things. Iwould walk around to the little shops and pick things up and my friends would look at me like, “Are you going to wear that?!”. (laughs)I’d say that one day I’m going to start working withthis! Then sometimes I would wear them and take the slips off and wear them myself, but I was trying to survive, and working to pay rent and stuff. Then I met my husband, then kids came. When I travel — I go to Mexico a lot to visit my family — or if I go to Seattle, or one time I went to San Francisco for a Salsa festival.

Then I go and shop. I have boxes with different colors and prints separated and things like that. Since I had the kids eight years ago, I had my things in a closet and I wanted to take them out, but it was too crazy with a little one and running around doing this and that with them. I couldn’t juggle it.

The vision was always there, then last March my husband and I were talking and he said that if I wanted to start when our youngest goes to kindergarten I better start preparing right now. I needed to start working towards being ready to go in September. I was so excited. I started workingon a logo and business cards, just under the table, just little things without being public. I started getting ready and in September I was able to open up a Facebook account and a website and an Instagram; all the things that make you connect to the world. Like my mother said,there is a time and a season for everything, so I was definitely looking for that, and it came!

It’s amazing that just over a year ago you started putting everything together. Your hard work has really started to pay off!

For me it challenges my patience. It’s something I need to work on. You know, sometimes I want to run instead of walking. Then I go back and put the finger in one place and keep doing it, and keep doing it, and everything will follow! Another thing I have that I don’t think helps is that I am a perfectionist. It’s no talent, let me tell you! (laughs). With all of my pieces, if there is a seam that is not straight I cannot sleep. My husband will be like, “I can’t even see what you’re talking about!”. I don’t care, if I can see it, it’s going to bother me. Patience and perfectionism are things I have to work on, sometimes I just have to let things go.

How did you find out about RAW Artists?

I went to Portland Fashion Week last September and they handed a flier to me. I had a bag with a bunch of papers you get when you go, and I picked it up one day and looked on the computer for the things I was interested in. I saw the one for RAW, and I think I saw it on TV once. Then I went to the website and submitted and they accepted!

At the RAW Showcase in April, Dyer donated30% of her sales from that night to the organization JoinPDX that focuses on helping the homeless population in Portland. “I wanted to get involved with our community through my work, and my research led me to JoinPDX. I loved the work they do. My vision is to incorporate an organization that extends a helping hand to others. This becomes an opportunity for me and my customers to connect with community and world service”. For more information about JoinPDX go to: joinpdx.org

Being one of the featured designers at Portland’s RAW Artists: Spectrum showcase this past April was just the tip of the iceberg for Dyer and her stunning designs. Since April she has been selected to travel to Seattle for the RAW: Artists showcase there which took place on June 22nd. To find out more about Dyer, her fashion line, or to purchase one of her pieces visit her website:myriammarcela.com, email her at: info@myriammarcela.com, Like MyriamMarcela on Facebook, follow her on Instagram @myriammarcela, or check out her RAW: Artists profile at rawartists.org/myriammarcela.

About The Author: Mary Walsh