Karen Marley creates fashion without drama | Fashion

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Karen Marley knows how to create atmosphere.

Wrapped in an unstructured charcoal gray dress and sitting in a wicker-backed dining chair at her Los Angeles home, the daughter of legendary reggae musician Bob Marley is surrounded by earthy objects like soft, asymmetrical carved sculptures and a tray of handmade oblong wood as you discuss your creative inspirations. A large candle flickers in an amber jar on the dining room table below a black-and-white painting of her father. It all feels casual yet sophisticated, especially when buoyed by Marley’s welcoming demeanor and laid-back confidence.

“My father cared deeply about our planet, the people and everything else within it,” reflects the cultural icon, who died when he was 8 years old. “His sense of style from him was laid-back and laid-back and, in essence, the origin of my easy, self-aware style.”

Marley is now sharing his similar sartorial sensibilities with By Karen Marley, a clothing brand that launched on International Women’s Day in March. “It’s what I would call conscious casual,” she says. Her carefully edited collection features easy-to-wear staples, and Marley’s style fits well with the post-pandemic push to continue embracing the comfort found in simple clothing. Think: black and fall-colored stretchy knitwear, like wide-leg pants, ruched dresses, and crop tops. In addition, she makes a range of handmade outerwear from African mud and has a linen collection in the works.

A multi-disciplinary creative who has worked as an interior designer and partnered on projects for her sister Cedella’s clothing company, including helping to design uniforms for Jamaica’s Olympic teams, Marley is using her new clothing line to promote a point of inclusive and ecological view. “The fabrics I chose are all sustainable,” she explains of her materials, like carefully selected bamboo and cotton stretch French terry blends. To reduce the impact on the environment, Marley buys offcuts and uses dead material when possible instead of buying bulk. She also completely forgoes shopping bags. “I don’t use them,” she says. “It’s a waste.”

Much of his inspiration comes from his family and heritage. She grew up in Jamaica with her great-grandparents, then moved in with her stepmother Rita Marley and five of her siblings. “My mother figures have guided me,” says Marley. “I idolized my great-grandmother Lillian, who had a great sense of personal style.” She also cites Rita’s affinity for African and Jamaican culture, as well as “her attention to self-care and her self-love” as major influences on her.

Despite an incomparable ancestry, Marley is not simply a figurehead for her clothing brand. She maintains control of every step of the process, including visiting the manufacturing facility in downtown Los Angeles on a regular basis to ensure that working conditions are fair and safe. For her jackets and coats made from hand-dyed blue mud cloth adorned with traditional Malian patterns, Marley partners with a friend who has a direct connection to manufacturers in Africa, helping support female micro-entrepreneurs who are experts at keeping this specialized crafts. live.

Not a formally trained clothing designer, Marley collaborates with a design assistant who translates her concepts into patterns, as well as a small team who create samples tailored to her specifications. She is her ultimate critic and her target customer. “I have to want to use it,” she says. (One of the biggest challenges, she points out, is wearing colors other than black, a wardrobe staple of hers.)

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Marley’s personal love of travel is also a huge inspiration for what she designs and how she does it. When planning her next linens, “she had this vacation idea in mind,” says Marley, who lived in London for a few years before moving to Los Angeles about two decades ago with her now-grown son. “That [should be] easy to pack,” she says. “When I was packing for Bali, I got there and I didn’t need half the stuff.”

Marley describes her brand’s overall concept and mission as “more relaxed, more laid back. I don’t really like drama.” Given the turmoil of the past two years, it’s a concept everyone can appreciate. “I love fashion, but I wouldn’t necessarily call what I do that,” she reveals. “I know I have been guilty in the past of buying fast fashion, and what should I do? Threw it away. To that end, By Karen Marley won’t seasonally feed the fashion beast. Instead, she plans to release new items at an organic pace when both the muse and production capabilities allow.

At its core, By Karen Marley embodies her personal aesthetic. “It’s about me and my art, and wanting people to catch my vibeshe says, punctuating those last three words in a semi-sarcastic, self-deprecating tone before bursting out laughing. With her infectious energy and comfortable style, Marley’s vibe is quite an eye-catcher.


Jessica Ritz is a Los Angeles-based writer who has contributed to architectural compendium, Bon Appetite, coastal life, Los Angeles Times, Palm Springs LifeY The Angels magazine. Follow her on Twitter @jessnritz.

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