An Interview with Marie Cordella by Nell Alk. Photographs by Jason Dail, courtesy of Marie Cordella Design.
I first met dress designer Marie Cordella backstage at a concert in April 2009, at Brooklyn’s Bell House. She was touring with also-North Carolina-based indie duo The Rosebuds, outfitting lead singer Kelly Crisp, and I remember being immediately intrigued by her distinctive aesthetic and infectious personality. Not surprisingly, I’m not the only one taking note. Since then she’s fashioned a path to NC notoriety (headlining Charleston Fashion Week last year) and impending national exposure, most recently having been invited to New York City as a contestant on Lifetime’s 24 Hour Catwalk. Even better, she’s got some noteworthy green credentials.
Next Thursday evening at 10pm EST, Cordella makes her television debut. All bets are off after that, and we thought it’d be nice to introduce you before the hype machine takes over. So read on for inside info about being a reality show contestant, plus insight into this up-and-coming designer’s commitment to sustainable design, in part 1 of our interview with Marie Cordella.
What’s it like being on a reality TV show?
Being behind the scenes, versus watching it [on TV], is incredibly different. It’s produced on a level that I could not have understood. I’m not scared to say that, because the public should probably know. The challenge is real. There’s no denying the challenge. You have that amount of time. The rules are strict. But there’s a lot of other things that aren’t represented. Watching it is more dramatic, I think, than the actual experience, which is really wonderful and positive. The filming experience is exciting and energetic. A lot of networking.
Unlike how it’s portrayed on television, Alexa Chung isn’t just hanging out all night, popping in as she pleases, right?
She is hanging out all night! That’s actually true. Everyone there is literally popping in, which is one of my favorite parts.
Were you nervous?
Even though the audience when it [airs] is massive, when you’re filming it’s a really close-knit group of very supportive people. So it felt really natural. I found it almost normal. I wasn’t nervous.
Anything else you’re able to reveal?
They go through all your stuff. They take your stuff. You can’t use your phone. You can’t text or even look at your phone. It’s reality TV and they don’t want you talking to other people. You’re not supposed to be talking at all when you’re not on camera, so they can capture everything.
Can you speak to the sustainability of your designs?
I cannot control how sustainable my commissioned designs are. But, when I produce a line, I always use recycled fabrics every single time. It’s green and it cuts material costs. I feel good about it. And I respond to vintage fabrics. My retail lines are always made out of at least once-used materials.
Is there anything else you stay away from?
I don’t work with leather. I’ve only made one piece ever that had leather in it. I bought a pre-owned leather jacket at a thrift store and cut it up. I work mainly with cotton and some synthetics. I don’t dabble too much in animals. I’ve been a vegetarian for eighteen years, so I’m not interested in animal materials. It upsets me fundamentally. I do a lot of vegan dresses.
What drives your vegetarianism?
I don’t really drink milk or eat cheese. Very rarely. And eggs really freak me out. It’s chicken period!