Emerging Fashion Designer

Gerae Stack | Intimate Designs

Longerae | Intimate Wear

When did you decided to become a fashion designer?

Gerae | When I was young I always wanted to make things. Anything creative I was in. Sometime in middle school, I started a sewing project for pants. I cut out all of the pieces and pinned them together to be sewn but they sat in a closet until my parents sold that house in 2016. I made lots of garters for people in high school and pieced together a few tutu’s by hand but what really got me thinking about designing was when I was on a mission trip for my church in 2007 in Buffalo, NY. It feels important to note this was a Catholic church mission trip where we were not allowed to wear tank-tops or shorts that came above the knee as per our churches rules, I mean, what would “God” think if a human saw some of your skin? I digress. There was another group there from Florida and upon introducing myself one vibrant young lady named Tura said, “Gerae, like lingerie! I like it.” The very long dreaming process of “longerae” began there in my 16 year-old brain.

How did fashion design come to be your career choice?

Gerae | I am a jack of all trades and I like it that way. I was working in education from graduating college in 2015 to 2021. I was teaching special education on a tier one license meaning I don’t have an education degree and since I had not yet committed to going back to school to get that degree they decided to give my job to someone else. I found this out a week before the 2020-2021 school year ended which stung a bit but in the end was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. I went home that night and sat on my porch with a hefty glass of wine and started job searching, typing in random words of things I am interested in and the application for “Fashion Week MN” popped up. Of course the deadline was that day and I had absolutely nothing to lose nor would I have been devastated if I didn’t get in so I applied and got in! I had previously put on two shows in 2019 but due to working in a school and other jobs after school, I didn’t put much time into chasing that dream until now.

Is there someone in your life that was the inspiration for
you choosing a career in fashion design? How did they
inspire you?

Gerae | Both of my grandmas sew. They would make us Barbie ™ and American Girl doll clothes. One of my grandma’s will be 95 this year and is still quilting even though each one she finishes now she says, “this is my last one.” So far the “last quilt” is like each of Cher’s
Farewell tours. My mom also made our Halloween costumes, I’m remembering a particularly difficult spider costume she crafted and I was always so into the idea of making something you can wear that no one else has. Each of these women inspired me to create.

What challenges have you experienced involving a design project or event that you would like to share?

Gerae | I would say the most challenging production would have to be my first show in 2019. I was working out of my tiny studio apartment so my living room and bedroom was also my workspace. A few pins may have ended up in my bed. The machine I was working on was old and didn’t work that well, the serger sewing machine I had just stopped working so I used my grandma’s which also stopped working and had about 19 garments to make. Towards the end I slept very little and just powered through somehow pulling it off. The most tragic part of that first line is that I had almost all the items in a box in my car where I left them overnight because I was planning on taking pictures of people in them the following days. My car was broken into and every item was stolen and probably ended up in a dumpster somewhere. Needless to say if I have to leave any garments in my car for any reason now it gives me great anxiety.

What is that you strive for when you are working a new project design?

Gerae | At this point in time since I am not technically trained, when I am working on a new project or design my goal is to improve my skill in regards to structure and piecing things together more technically. I also strive to always have my items reflect me and my aesthetic.

What is the most challenging when creating a new design?

Gerae | Again due to the lack of technical training I have the most challenging part of creating a new design is executing it close to what I have envisioned. Sometimes it ends up looking nothing like I imagined which can be a good thing but sometimes those items end up in the scrap pile to be used for a different project.

Once you have completed a design project, what is that you hope to have accomplished?

Gerae | When I am done with a design project I feel accomplished if I personally like it and it has good structure.

Have you considered another career path prior to fashion design? If so, what profession were you considering?

Gerae | I turned 30 this January and I never really have and I am not sure if I ever will feel like I have a career path. I didn’t really want to go to college because I had no idea what I wanted to do… or, what I really did want to do had always been something people told me “wasn’t a real possibility” so I just did what I was supposed to do and went to college and ended up with a degree in dance and a minor in psychology. My parents are educators and the summer after graduating college I felt pretty lost and ended up in education but it was not and still is not something I could do long term. I love the students to pieces but I think our education system needs a ton of reform and to stop lining Pearson’s pockets so educators don’t have to “teach to a test.” Educators are truly a beautiful and special type of superhuman.

Where did you train to become a fashion designer? Would you recommend the school or university to another?

Gerae | I learned a lot working in the costume shop a few semesters at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Kat and David McCarl were so great at teaching all of us on the fly. I would definitely recommend an arts degree in any field but just know it’s not glamorous.

What do your family and friends think now that you have decided to become a fashion designer?

Gerae | My family and friends are my biggest supporters. My dad came to accept the life of an artist more after listening to Joe Pug’s podcast “The Working Songwriter” with guest Noah Gundersen who upon being asked, “What was your plan B?” responded with, “I didn’t have a plan B because every artist I know who had a plan B, well, that’s what they’re doing.” The financial strain definitely stresses my parents but they support me wholeheartedly…as long as I never have to live with them again. My partner is also a huge source of encouragement. He encourages me daily to pursue ALL my dreams and would never let me quit just because it gets hard and that is really important to me.

Have you worked on any design projects involving sustainable fashion? If so, what did you learn about sustainable fashion?

Gerae | Sustainable and ethically conscious fashion has taken on a stronger meaning as I have gotten older and started paying attention to the news. When creating I never plan to mass produce anything. I like to use materials found in my own home, thrift stores, and things others are discarding to create or recreate something new. I do love the fabric store as well so I use a combination of fabrics to make my pieces.

During this time of Covid-19, how do you keep yourself safe, motivated and continue to design?

Gerae | For the majority of the pandemic I was online with students. I lived with my parents for the first chunk of it in 2020 in their small two bedroom Minneapolis apartment and made a ton of masks but that was about all the sewing I did up until I found out I was accepted into FWMN Fall 2021. The creative process at the moment feels very forced especially through winter but I’m pushing through and hoping finally getting to run a Ragnar Relay again in May will reawaken some of the “sleeping” parts of myself.

Where does your inspiration come from when creating your designs?

Gerae | Dance and music influence a lot of my designs. I feel like my designs are very inspired by feeling even though I am one of those annoying humans who likes to pretend I don’t have feelings. The feeling, the emotion, comes out in my creativity.

Are your designs created to be environmentally friendly?
If so, how do you strive to implement this into your work?

Gerae | As I said earlier, I try to up-cycle clothing, bed sheets, curtains, etc. while also using some new fabrics. Nothing is mass produced and at this point in time nothing has really even been duplicated due to no demand.

Is there an audience that you believe your designs would best compliment?

Gerae | At this point in time my designs are very feminine though anyone who wanted to could wear them. I do have plans to create more masculine lingerie items but right now I’m trying to get through April 24th.

Why is your focus on swimwear and lingerie; is there a particular experience or reason this is your focus when designing wearable garments?

My name, Gerae…longerae. That is where it began. I also love empowering bodies. I would say that growing up in Catholic school we were taught you were “slutty” if your bra strap was showing, your shorts or skirt were shorter than an inch above your knee, spaghetti straps were the work of the devil himself and all of these things contributed to body dysmorphia as well as the idea that my body is ONLY a sexual entity. Our society is very hyper focused on the sexualization of the body and specifically the female body in a way that is gross and makes it seem like the female body is this beautiful thing but if you choose to show parts of it you are “slutty.” I put “slutty” in parentheses because I hate that word and think all women should choose to wear clothes that they feel empowered in whether they are fully covered head to toe or barely covered…and nude in spaces it is appropriate and safe to do so. Our bodies are not just there to distract men as some of us have been brainwashed to believe.

Name at least two fashion shows that you have participated in within the last three years. What one thing do you recall that was most beneficial during that event?

Gerae | I produced Bedroom Floor and Love on the Bedroom Floor in 2019 and participated in my first FWMN show, Evolve, in fall of 2021. I would say Evolve opened me up to amazing designers and producers and people involved in the Minneapolis/Minnesota fashion community which has been such a blessing. They are seriously magical humans!

What does fashion design mean to you and how do you
determine success when designing?

Gerae | Fashion design/fashion is a form of wearable art. What you’re wearing can influence different aspects of your day to day life. Having the ability to design allows the creator to share their voice, emotion, thoughts, and their art with others who are then allowed to express themselves with the help of your designs. I feel success when I create something that I personally really enjoy.

Are you currently working on any new designs? If so, what and when do you expect the project to be complete, spring or fall?

Gerae | I am working on a line for the show I am producing for FWMN Spring 2022, Dirty Laundry. It all has to be done for sure by April 24th but I’m close to the end now so hopefully I won’t be working
down to that wire.

How do you measure the success of your designs after a
showing or event? In other words, the acceptance of your work.

Gerae | At this point in my fashion design path I feel a design was successful if it holds together… There may have been one that completely came apart during a dance in 2019 but no one seemed to notice. I also feel that incorporating dance into the showcasing of my designs helps express where I was mentally when creating them. I think across all arts if people talk about it, good, bad or neutral, in some way that is a success. It made them feel something

In closing, what one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring fashion designer?

Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable.” –Kurt Vonnegut

Minneapolis Minnesota Skyline

Gerae Stack | Minneapolis Fashion Designer