The ability of a fashion brand to grow slowly, without pumping out overtly trendy but continually refreshing silhouettes over the period of a few years while generating sales is an impressive feat in this day and age. Designer Marina Cortbawi’s line of roomy cotton silhouettes for Merlette, offered with thoughtful, smaller details each season, is an example of this type of brand. For resort, Cortbawi infused subtle “non-print” print into her otherwise solid lineup through a calla lily line drawing while adding hand-embroidered details to her ever-evolving line of easygoing, cotton attire. Although her customer stated they didn’t want a print, her artful Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Mapplethorpe and Georgia O’Keeffe-inspired flower was so subtle, even when embroidered on a caftan, that it fit just right.
For instance, her billowy tiered or smocked tops and dresses were given with gold handwoven stitching onto more updated, boxy shapes. Double-V eyelet tops with pintucking, Italian tumbled cotton dresses in navy and coral colored frocks with tie details also made for nice newness to the collection. Although there was a lot of newness, the pieces felt at home with Merlette’s unpretentious, resorty DNA, where fabrics are the forefront of design. For instance, two of Cortbawi’s most impressive dresses came in a silk chandary, a new fabrication for the brand.