#MarlyMarles #Fashion #UrbanChic #CommunityOutreach #DiegoCagara #SpotlightNews
ALBANY — A hopeful 24-year-old fashion designer living in Albany wants to not only expand her brand, but to give back and create clothes for financially-disadvantaged people. She aims to come full circle once she has a strong platform, as her own family had personally struggled with money while she grew up.
Originally born in Jamaica, Marly Marles — her real name is Samarla Dacas — moved to Harlem in the United States with her family when she was just two years old, before relocating to Albany in mid-2017. Identifying herself as a highly goal-oriented woman, she has designed clothing for both sexes, although she admitted she has not worked on men’s clothes as much, something she plans to change by the end of the year.
Her brand name is A Colorful Dream, and generally revolves around urban chic fashion. Her designs typically have “a lot of colors, mostly because of my personality. I just like a lot of colors, many bright fabrics, and prints. It’s because I express myself through my clothes, because that’s the first thing you see.”
While Marles likes to maintain positivity and sheer luminance, she conversely said that she does not like wearing or working with dull colors, as they stray away from her bubbly and happy-go-lucky personality.
Her designs have been featured in streetwear and high fashion shows, mainly in New York City. Her first one was for a streetwear show in 2014 where she presented backless dresses and skirts, and was surprised at the sheer positive reception from the crowd. It helped slowly establish her name in the smaller New York fashion scene and gain more self-confidence. It motivated her to create a goal of having her own fashion show one day, hopefully by 2019.
She networks with models, photographers and fashion show organizers through social media, phone calls and emailing. On Eventbrite and Facebook, she said there are fashion-themed groups she joined where she would see many posts about upcoming fashion shows, people needing models, designers or makeup artists, and there are event flyers containing contact information.
Generally, she comes up with designs “probably around every two weeks, which I need to work on, because one of my goals for the year is to sew everyday. I want to send pieces out to some high-end people who have PO boxes on their Instagram, with my business card. If they like it, it’ll give me more exposure and get me one step closer to having charity shows once I have a huge platform.”
This theme of charity — “giving back” as she said — relates to her upbringing, interaction with peers at school and her family’s strained financial situation.
Marles’ family had scarce economic resources while growing up in Jamaica and Harlem, which strongly instilled a sense of humility and compassion inside her. She recalled living in a tightly-cramped Harlem house with her parents, cousins and sisters, the latter of whom she would share clothes and a closet with as they did not have enough. She slowly realized that she wanted her own closet to have clothes of her own brand, which she said was one of her goals too.
“I know there’s a lot of young kids, even young adults, that live in a shelter. One, they can’t afford clothes. Two, they don’t have a lot of clothes. So, my main goal is to do a lot of charity events and fashion shows where I put people in my clothes,” she said. “I want them to have my designs and make them feel like they know that there’s somebody out there that wants to help you, even if they don’t have the money for it, and not expect anything in return.”
Her strong interest in fashion designing was also inspired by some of her own family members, as her grandmother, who had a sewing machine, would sew by hand a lot, while her uncle was also a seamstress.
Marles also had an epiphany during middle school.
“Because we didn’t have a lot of money, I couldn’t wear everything that I wanted to wear and I would get teased. But then I remembered thinking, ‘I want to make my own clothes one day.’ Anything that I want to buy, including expensive brands, I thought I could make them myself. So, in high school, one of my friends knows an African fashion designer and told me that I should talk to her and maybe get an internship. I met up with her and I got an internship actually! She’s got her own boutique so I learned a lot.”
While she got her own sewing machine from Target, she gets her fabrics and materials from the JOANN Fabric and Craft Store at the Northway Shopping Center in Colonie, although her favorite store is Mood Fabrics on West 37th Street in New York City. At the former store, she typically gets five yarns of each fabric she likes, each one usually costing $16.99.
The Mood Fabrics store is notably featured on hit reality TV series “Project Runway,” where contestants compete to create designs that are judged by a panel.
Marles enjoys learning from that show, especially being awestruck by its spin-off, “Project Runway: Junior,” which sees teen designers, aged between 13 and 17, compete. She was inspired by “how young those kids are and yet they have goals and they can achieve that. That also made me realize that I know I can do it.”
Another show she watches is “America’s Next Top Model” where she first encountered guest judge and prominent Canadian model Coco Rocha.
“[Rocha] was showing the models how to pose, and every single pose she did was just very edgy and mysterious, so I looked her up and followed her on Instagram,” she said. “My designs also have that edgy look, and she’s not afraid to do like weird, scary faces. Like with fashion, you can’t be scared of things, you just got to go for it.”
Marles continued her journey by attending New York City College of Technology for two and a half years to study fashion merchandising, where she learned “more of the business aspects of fashion, how to build your brand, how to network, how to set up a website, and how to price your items.” While she was not able to continue her studies, she intends to return to study in the city like the Fashion Institute of Technology to get her degree in fashion or business.
She hopes to design kids clothing and more menswear, have boutiques worldwide, and hold months-spanning web seminars for young aspiring designers to teach and give them tips.
“I want to be versatile. I want to design for everybody, like shoes, bags, jewelry, any and everything. Maybe even home decor one day,” she concluded. “My dream clients are Beyonce and Rihanna, like if Rihanna ever wears one of my dresses, just take my soul. It just takes that one client.”