And how Mirror Palais became the sweet dessert of mass sensationalism.
Surely, you've ever been scrolling through your Twitter or TikTok feed and found yourself immersed in the beauty of a dress and the femininity in its composition. Scrolling through your Twitter or TikTok feed, something stops you in your tracks: a dress. You are immersed in the beauty of a dress and the femininity in its composition. You excitedly search for its name, finding an elegant set of words hard to forget: Mirror Palais.
Founded in 2019 by Marcelo Gaia, a New York-based designer who started by distributing ’80s-inspired swimsuits and revealing tops — and now dresses celebrities like Lana Del Rey and Kylie Jenner — the brand is described, according to Gaia, as "a mix of Edwardian and Victorian fashion, but also with the minimalism and clean lines of the nineties." Captivating millions through social media, he has successfully sold out his collections within hours. His coveted Fairy Dress, for instance, sold out in minutes after it dropped for preorder.
But, if we look beyond the success of Mirror Palais, we scratch our heads wondering: where does this irremediable attraction to Gaia's designs come from, seemingly overnight? And why have we all longed to be a Palais Girl?
Let's start at the Via Crucis: the year 2020. The personal crisis and the desire to reinvent oneself during lockdown increased impulse purchases by 46.3%, causing microtrends to boom through mass sales platforms such as AliExpress or SHEIN. However, cow prints and saturated filters — which now feel passé — were no match for Mirror Palais’ enduring staying power.
Amidst the one-note trends, Gaia stayed true to his vision: pulling back on bright colors, sporty outfits, and irregular tops, and instead playing with neutral colors, interesting textures, and streamlined silhouettes. He found a new approach to selling feminine clothing without stepping outside the classical canons. Gaia’s vision — revolutionarily simple, memorable, enlivening our more romantic fashion fantasies — brought back the use of fashion as a hedonistic and illusory movement.
It's no surprise that Gaia's garments have been a hit, and even less so when you take into account what he always kept hidden in his hat: Mirror Palais’ visual direction. There’s a good chance you've already come across a Mirror Palais garment on social media — but the brand’s social strategy took years to develop. In early Instagram posts, we only see pictures of bikinis, tops, and a few other products that were scarcely offered. These images didn't urge us to add them to wishlists or add them to our moodboards. They were just... bikinis and cute tops.
After expanding his catalog with silks and lace, and hiring models that look like the fruit of a Mediterranean dream — like Daniela Garza and ThreeMillion — Gaia began imagining his garments differently, taking both photos and videos in which the models seem to be the protagonists of a summer movie. From hanging up clothes to walking through interesting cobblestone streets, Gaia captured the essence of his designs and the covetable contexts in which they could be worn. In this way, the consumer can imagine going out for a glass of wine in a Ballet dress or strolling along the beach in a Maria dress. Suddenly, models were not the main character — the consumers were.
Naturally, a beautiful vision always incites its consumption: you see a dress, you fall in love with it, you imagine yourself being a beautiful girl who would attract the eyes of everyone who passes by, and then, you see the price and the questionable quality of the garments. But that doesn't stop some from dreaming of being a Palais Girl and playing with reality and attitude through fashion — even if the use of polyester and rayon has raised some skeptical looks on social media.
Picture this: stylists run from one side to the other spilling their steps on the parquet floor. Influencers and models prepare to be photographed in a corner — delicately decorated with a piano, flowers, broken chandeliers — to capture Gaia's new collection. The smell of hot hair and hairspray obstructs any sense of smell. That particular week is unlike any other: it is New York Fashion Week SS24. Five years after its creation and countless controversies over plagiarism and product pricing, Mirror Palais manages to join the most anticipated event of the year. The tension is perceptible even to the designer himself.
Guests, mostly influencers, eagerly watch the re-interpretations of traditional garments that point to different eras of Western history, such as the silhouettes of the 17th century, or the simplicity and chic of the 21st. Beautiful, translucent fabrics, veils, corsets, and ruffles attract the eyes of those present. However, the star look was the white Victorian-style dress worn by influencer Cindy Kimberly. Everyone in the room just had to lay their eyes on that garment. Graceful, fresh, classic — and with bare arms — the dress teaches us that the key to being acclaimed is to not mess with the classics.
However, this collection also received criticism — mainly about the lack of inclusivity in Gaia’s designs. The detonator was a look that consisted of a bow-printed baby tee and a simple pink skirt, a gesture of bad taste considering that the outfit broke with the theme of the collection and was featured on one of the few plus-size models hired. People did not hesitate to express their opinions on the internet, pointing out the lack of work he had put into creating garments for bigger sizes.
Gaia commented in an interview with Hypebae the previous year, after his SS23 collection: "It never occurred to me to not include any type of person from being able to enjoy Mirror Palais. As a person in my life, I've always connected with all types of people, especially when I felt like an outcast."
Will the future collections captivate us with a new size-inclusive era for Mirror Palais or is his statement — seemingly forgotten ahead of his SS24 collection —just mere verbiage?
Despite the bitter touches of his controversies, Marcelo Gaia has managed to sweeten the palates of the public with his new — and size-inclusive — Valentine's Day collection Forever Yours, an appetizing feast of reds and pale pinks that brings us back to that attraction we experienced in our first contact with the brand.
Today, small brands like Moorea Vintage now design or promote following Gaia's modus operandi, birthing a new movement I like to call “Palaisan hedonism.” With other designers following the new rules Gaia has birthed, it’s a sign of something new — an augury that tells us that there is still a long way to go before Mirror Palais becomes another obsolete brand. 🌀
Alejandra Rubio is a 23-year-old writer, programmer, and ancient soul who often analyzes and embellishes her surroundings through opalescent forms of self-expression. You can find her curating her visions everywhere online @glitched__girl.