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House of Gina Marie + Vietnam Collection: The Origin Story

House of Gina Marie | Vietnam Collection: The Origin Story.
Written by, Megan Harrod

What we’re wearing | Megan, left, + Gina, right,
What started as a shared daydream between two free-spirited fashion and travel lovers over some grub on a sunny summer afternoon at Chipotle turned into the House of Gina Marie 2015 Spring/Summer Vietnam Collection, which was unveiled on the runway at the Circle of Design 2015. Yep, that’s what I said. It all started with a daydream and a burrito bowl. Okay, so let’s rewind…

On that sunny summer day during in 2014, on a quick trip to Minneapolis, I reached out to the intensely creative and brilliant Gina Marie to chat about a thought that was fluttering around in my mind on an 18-hour road trip from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis. We had every intention to grab a cup o’ java and get to know each other, but just as it does when two magical unicorns unite, it grew into something much, much bigger and more sparkly. Gina Marie had heard there was a hot yoga class with a Yogi guru – the one and only Jonny Kest – so she asked me if I wanted to join her for the class and grab some grub instead. Duh – yes please! I didn’t know what I was getting myself into: it was a 90-minute mat-to-mat intense and amazing class, with our shared most favorite part – the most intense, amazing, rewarding savasana. Like, ever. My stomach growled on the mat. Yup, feed me.

So we jetted over to Chipotle and a daydreaming session. Let’s back this thing up for a minute…what you should know is that in my previous life I was co-owner of Ethnotek Bags, a socially responsible company creating high quality laptop and travel bags that feature ethically sourced handmade textiles. “How does this relate to the Vietnam Collection Origin Story?” you’re probably wondering. Well, when I was with Ethnotek, Gina Marie and I magically connected when she “joined the Tribe” (aka she purchased a bag) and then stayed in contact as I learned about and loved what Gina Marie created. Her line was featured at my favorite Minneapolis boutique, Cliché, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. Okay, back to that burrito bowl on that sunny summer day…so we met at Chipotle on Hwy 7 and 101 and I told Gina Marie, “Hey, I have an idea!”

The idea was ready-to-travel, sophisticated yet functional, modern clothing designs with textiles sourced sustainably from around the globe. Gina Marie loved the idea. And so it was born: House of Gina Marie | The Vietnam Collection. I had moved to Utah, though, and snagged a gig with the U.S. Ski Team in the meantime, and I wasn’t ready to dive in. In true Gina Marie badass style, she committed. And so it goes: Megan is the muse and Gina Marie is the executor of beauty and creativity. Of the concept, Gina Marie said, “She is unstoppable…and we’re not stopping after just this one collection. As with everything she touches, it turned out beautifully.” Gina Marie, you’re too kind. Stop it. It’s all you, girl. Let’s do this!
I remember the day Gina Marie sent me the shot of the textiles she had found in Vietnam. I was in Val D’Isere, France at the time, and super-busy with the new gig. But I was floored. The patterns were stunning. And when Gina Marie sent me the finished project I was fucking speechless (excuse my language, it’s the truth). I was in Wengen, Switzerland that time. Surrounded by natural beauty and inspired, I stopped and took a moment to think about how special and small this world really is. Gina Marie told me, “Hey Megan, PLEASE HELP! On Friday, April 3, 2015 we’re on the runway at Shelly Gensmer’s Circle of Design show at the Galleria Westin in Edina, Minnesota. Come!” At the moment, I didn’t know where I would be on April 3rd. It was one day at a time for this gal. As the season ended and April 3rd neared, though, I felt like I should be there. And so I bought a ticket to my Minneapolis home. Let’s talk for a few moments about what happened between point A (the Chipotle grub convo) and point B (Circle of Design)—the most magical and vital part of the Origin Story:

Megan: How did you source the textiles/where did you source them from?

Gina: Right in my tailors shop. I chose the material the Vietnamese use for the ever- so-popular tourist souvenir pant (the “bah pant”) and make the whole collection around it. It’s washable, comfortable, drapes well and comes in a million prints and colors. There’s a fabric store in the neighborhood that I frequent and if I fell in love with a print there, I bought it and brought it back on my bicycle.

Megan: What made you choose the patterns/textiles you chose?

Gina Marie: I found a simple little poster online of traditional historical Vietnamese garb and used the color combinations in those examples as my inspiration. I matched the colors of the historical outfit to the colors in the materials print options. Red/black/gold for the dress. Green/black for the jacket. Black and white for the elephant “bah” pant. Blue and white for the scarf. Red and white for the “bon” tee, and so on…

Megan: How/why did you choose the naming convention for this line?

Gina Marie: I named them after the phonetic pronunciation of the Vietnamese numbers 1-10. I learned my numbers when I was there and versed the measurements of the order (half the time) in the language. If the length of the bon tee was 29 centimeters you pronounce 29 “high cheen”.

AND…very funny side story: I’m 29 years old, and everyone asks your age when they meet you so they know how to give you an appropriate salutation. For instance, if someone is older than you, even by a minute, you say “xin chao co” (pronounced sin chao co). If younger, they say xin chao em. So, I learned how to say 29 very quickly, however, I thought 9 was pronounced jeim (like jim with a high I) not cheen. So I was smiling and pointing to myself, saying “hi jim” but it turns out jim means “penis”…so I was smiling and pointing to myself saying “2 penis.” THAT made for good laugh all around. Hahahaha.

These designs mirror traditional historical clothing, like I mentioned before with prints. Today many of the women of small town Vietnam wear pajama sets day and night. It’s their work clothes, play clothes, home clothes…kind of like our version of yoga pants. Tourists eat them up because they’re so comfortable and since it’s an appropriate thing to wear for daywear, everyone is wearing them all the time.

Check out the collection
And now we come full circle…to the Circle of Design 2015. The event was magical. The Vietnam Collection was well received and the next big adventure will take Gina Marie to Seattle Fashion Week from June 11-14, 2015, and Megan to India to visit villages and learn about traditional hand weaving and embroidery textile practices during the entire month of June.
I leave you with this bit of advice: time is the greatest gift you can give someone…and you never know what magic might come out of a Chipotle grub session on a sunny summer day…

Move slowly. Dream and create. Travel with intention. Be curious. Love big. Give wholeheartedly.

Megan, the #vagablonde