We are thrilled to bring the story of Gelareh to our readers, it’s a story of self empowerment and strength. We’ve noticed some key music artists wearing these pieces of masterful black conceptions. Gelareh’s handcrafted imaginations are adorned by Prince, Ivy Levan and Missy Elliot to name a few. Our story goes behind the scenes from Prince’s Saturday Night Live 2014 performance with his all female line-up 3rd Eye Girl as well as Gelareh’s 2 days at Paisley Park. Let us all join together on this exquisite journey…
Interview Meikee Magnetic – Wardrobe Gelareh Designs, Photography Loren Earle-Cruickshanks, Model Kristina Cheraneva, Styling Gelareh Alam, Headpieces Ceiba SF and House of Malakai, Production The Commish
Where were you born and where are you now?
I was born and raised in Iran. I now spend my time in California, Los Angeles and San Francisco when I’m not traveling for my shows, events, etc…
Tell us your story on the beginnings of Gelareh and how you started designing?
I had no voice growing up as a girl in war and conflict. My family would have to run for safety all the time and got used to fear. Now, having come so far from that, I celebrate freedom and empower myself by expressing strength and sensuality through my art. I want to create pieces with feminine elegance and give the wearer a fearless confidence. If we feel empowered, there is nothing that we can’t do. I want to bring this feeling to those visionaries and trendsetters who are looking to express their fearlessness in style. As a company, we are motivated to provide our clients with a pure, empowered feeling and the finest quality clothing. The design speaks for itself. The rest we do by paying strict attention to all details of craft and execution. All pieces are handcrafted, made by a single master artisan, in our own in-house atelier. This allows for the complexity, texture, and layers of exquisite craftsmanship you will see on every piece. The vision for my eponymous label comes from a deep-felt expression of individual freedom, with the body as a canvas and muse. My designs are rich with strength and sensuality, along with sculptural profiles, elegant lines, and a powerful stylistic expression.
At what point did you discover self empowerment and really felt freedom?
It was when I was in art school, here in the US for the first time. I was creating without fear of judgement or societal disapproval, which had been always with me growing up. I truly felt freedom when I saw what my pieces did for people, how it lights them up and makes them feel empowered themselves. The response made me feel this was a gift I could bring to the world.
What caught our attention was seeing music artists wearing your brand. Could you name a few these artists for us:
Prince and 3rd Eye Girl, Kerry Hilson, Avril Lavigne, Missy Elliot (below), Ivy Levan, Rilan, Dolores O’Riordan and Lianne La Havas.
We are all extremely saddened on the loss of musical genius and icon Prince. I remember not long ago watching Prince and 3rd Eye Girl’s performance on Saturday Night Live. I noticed the fashion they were all wearing looked very familiar. You told us the story once before and we’re excited to share this with all our readers. How did you end up dressing Prince and his whole band for SNL?
They found me by shopping at Shop Untitled in NYC, looking for designers to dress Prince and 3rd Eye Girl for a planned world tour. Prince’s stylist picked out several pieces she liked in the store, and they all happened to be Gelareh pieces. Owner Gapu Suri was kind enough to put us in touch, and a few days later I was on a flight to Minneapolis from designing my new line in Bali.
The epic Prince journey took you to Paisley Park where you spent 2 full days hanging with the legend. How did his passing effect you? Tell us that story:
Here is something I wrote when he passed: “I am so deeply grateful that I got to spend 2 days with Prince at Paisley Park last year. Like Prince, I am private about my personal life and do not often share on social media. However, with his passing, I think its something we are all feeling. The time I spent at his – quote- ‘place where all artists and musicians can come together to share and inspire one another’ called Paisley Park, will forever be fresh in memory. I received the call while abroad, working on my new collection ‘Metamorphosis’, two days and thousands of miles later I arrived with my partner Loren to a cold October in Minneapolis. He or his stylist had decided I was to dress him and the entire ensemble for the upcoming SNL show, hosted by Chris Rock on November 2, 2014, his first television appearance in 7 years.
Prince was cool. It was hard to take your eyes off of him. Knowing the level of detail with which we were informed about dos and don’ts (no alcohol, no meat, no cell phones), I was on my best behavior. He was beautiful- healthy, comfortable and kind with everyone, including a random trespasser who interrupted one of our meetings. He took a long time in his day to show Loren and I around his recording studio, dance studio, and private concert stage. We were challenged to think big, regaled with stories of other celebrities who visited him, and then we basically played a bunch of youtube videos of emerging artists he was excited about. We ate dinner with his all-girl band ThirdEyeGirl, and later we got the treat of a lifetime- a private concert (read: jam session) in his home. He invited Loren and I up on stage and was actually running around us to get between his keyboard and mic. I have experienced some interesting things but that was literally me watching my own experience on a video screen, completely amazing, bigger than life, and unreal. His well-documented particularities were on display- the motorcycle from Purple Rain (it was purple, as was his piano). He had the animated movie ‘Finding Nemo’ playing on multiple video screens, including the dining room and the DJ room. To see him create the sounds I heard coming from the speakers, was unbelievable. He was a true genius and so talented in so many ways, we may not see another like him in our lifetime, if ever. I am so sad he is gone. (Prince below)
Probably the best moment of the weekend, and perhaps one of the best of my life, came when he had fully gone through my collection. He said, like him, I was a disruptive artist, and he complimented me on my clear talent. I am so humbled to have gotten this feedback from one of the most talented humans to have ever picked up a musical instrument. The best quality of Prince is his unwavering support of other musicians and talent. He has discovered and promoted so many artists in his lifetime, and I’m honored to have been among them.
The work was hard. I was basically tasked with creating custom fitted outfits for each of his bandmates including himself, 14 total, to wear at the SNL show in New York in 10 days time. I left Minneapolis and did not sleep for the entire week. I was so exhausted, having delivered the pieces perfectly and in time, that the day of his show (11/2/14) I had a motorcycle accident that left a scar more than halfway around my upper shin (don’t worry, I’m fine). All of this is to say, in such a brief time, that the artist, known now and forever as Prince, gave me the greatest compliment I have gotten. More than anyone else he has made me feel worthy of being an artist and designer.
Your clothing is almost all BLACK, do you have a bit of a dark side to you?
Yes. I am a world-bridger. One of the reasons my pieces resonate is because they are a self expression of me, and I had a very difficult childhood. I grew up in war, and uncertainty. Occasionally I had to leave my home city because we were warned that it was going to be bombed. We all have a dark side to us, some of us embrace it and others run from it. It is the source of the strength I needed to overcome my childhood and bring Gelareh Designs into the world. I want everyone to know not to be afraid, that they are stronger than they know, and that we are all connected through our struggle.
Gelareh exudes strength and sensuality, along with sculptural profiles, elegant lines, and a powerful stylistic expression. How would you describe your fashion?
I’m pushing beyond the conventional confines of fashion with an eponymous line conceived from the unbridled imagination of pure art. Our remarkable pieces seem simultaneously impenetrable and gracefully fragile, imbued with echoes of the past with a view of the future. The collision of incongruous elements and mixed media at play against the backdrop of unexpected silhouettes openly defy fleeting seasonal trends while delivering an undeniable testament to modern allure.
Where do you get your inspiration to design such unique fashion?
I strive to combine strong silhouettes with elegant and classic feminism. It has to be the perfect balance in order to work, and my designs all exist right at that edge. I draw inspiration from everything: natural forms, modern style, striking art and looking towards the future. I try to make all of these things come together through my personal perspective of struggle and triumph.
Who are your favorite music artists?
Besides Prince? I really respect Madonna, as a force, and one of the first truly powerful female artists. I admire Gaga for her ability to push boundaries. I grew up on classic rock: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Steven Tyler, so that gets my body moving. I really love Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, classic soul sisters. Current music I think FKA Twigs is super talented. I love high art music like Bjork and Fever Ray. Gwen Stefani is so fashionable, I would love to work with her.
Other then fashion, what brings you the biggest joy in life?
Dance, Sculpture, Painting help satisfy my insatiable need to create. I love to help people as well, supporting children in marginalized countries, volunteering and donating part of my proceeds to blind children and other causes.
What’s next for Gelareh?
We will be having our Paris Premier at the FW 2016 Women’s show in Paris with Cube showroom September 29th – October 4th. We will be showing our SS 2017 Line, I’m so excited to be part of one of the most incredible shows in the world. After that it’s back to design a new line and this year I am really inspired to do more men’s pieces.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Dark Beauty has such a rich and beautiful style, incredible taste, celebrating the strength that is possible in overcoming our struggles. The Beauty of Darkness is the story of personal growth and empowerment. It is what I am all about and I am honored to be featured.