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Behind the Brand: Gaâla

An Interview With Founder, Kelly de Gaalon

By Anna Griffin, Editor in Chief

Paris has long been synonymous with classic design, precise tailoring, an assumed elegance, and for pioneering influential fashion trends since the Reign of Louis XIV, the Sun-King (1643-1715), who recognized fashion's economic importance. Under his rule foreign fabrics and lace were banned from France, while the King was deeply invested in establishing the technical and aesthetic superiority of France's clothing and textile industries. 

Continuing to reign supreme in the global fashion industry, Paris, known as the city of light and love, as well as the Fashion Capital, was the birthplace of the first Haute Couture fashion house, The House of Worth. Founded in the 19th century by Charles Frederick Worth, an English fashion designer who was the first to label clothes, hold runway shows and exhibit collections. Legendary designers followed including Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Thierry Hermès, Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Christian Louboutin, making Paris the home of their eponymous, luxury, fashion houses. Today, the city still innovates on the global stage with its prestigious place in the Big Four alongside New York, London, and Milan, the capital cities  considered the most prominent in the world, whose fashion weeks receive the most media coverage and set global style trends.

Unfortunately as the world battles climate change, the garment industry holds third place of the top 10 polluting industries globally. Making up to 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, while polluting waterways with toxic chemicals, consuming the largest volume of water after the agriculture industry, dumping 85% of textiles into landfills, contributing a significant amount of microplastics in the ocean each year, and the exploitation of workers, fashion production is a dirty business. Now as the industry makes a much-needed and overdue turn into a sustainable and transparent framework, a new Parisian, eco-conscious label has emerged which bears all the legendary traits of the French capital, but without having a negative impact on the environment. Launched during Covid’s lockdown in 2020 under the talented and intelligent eye of Kelly de Gaalon, Gaâla is sustainable, chic, and expertly tailored using quality, eco-friendly textiles, resulting in luxurious and feminine collections that are designed to last. With its prestigious fashion history and reputation, it might be perceived that Paris has a certain noblesse oblige (a responsibility - based on its nobility and wealth within the industry - to give back) in providing solutions to the fashion industry’s globally toxic footprint. With Gaâla’s entrance onto the scene, the city might just once more pave the way in elegantly setting an influential, worldwide change.


Coco Eco: Can you tell us about the early days of your career?

Kelly de Gaalon: Well, I can tell you it had nothing to do with fashion. I was working between London and Shanghai as a project manager for art related developments such as museums, galleries and monumental sculpture placements. It was a fulfilling job, but I often struggled to find feminine, high-quality clothing that suited my professional environment. So, we could say the challenge of getting dressed in the morning led me to where I am today, ha!

CE: What inspired you to evolve into creating a sustainable fashion brand?

KdG: In the early days of my career in China, I spent a lot of time in the business world, witnessing firsthand the effects of fast fashion on the planet - the disposal, the waste, and the consequent devastating environmental effects. Doing it any other way than sustainable was never an option for me. However, I knew it would be challenging: prioritizing fair wages and sustainable practices makes achieving reasonable profit margins difficult. First, it comes with higher production costs, including the higher price point for high-quality, sustainable materials and processes plus paying fair wages to those crafting our clothing. Secondly, we operate on a smaller scale to minimize environmental impact by not overproducing. Unlike mass production, which benefits from the economy of scale, sustainable brands like ours achieve different cost reductions due to lower production volumes - or by making items piece by piece instead of in a flow production which is often the case for us. Building and maintaining ethical supply chains also require significant investment, ensuring that every step of the production process adheres to ethical and sustainable standards, which can increase operating costs. While Gaâla's business model may not lead to high-profit margins in the short term, it's a commitment to creating long-term value and contributing to a better world, which is very important for me.

CE: When and where did you launch Gaala, and how has it grown since inception?

KdG: Interestingly, we launched Gaâla in the spring of 2020, during the first lockdown due to Covid, a time one might think would be devastating for a young brand. However, more people spending time at home on their phones or computers helped people discover us via Instagram, our primary marketing tool at the time. When we first started, we had a couple of tailors, only one employee besides my husband and I working in customer service, and someone operating logistics part-time out of their house in Paris. Now, we run two workshops with a team of over 70 people. It's astounding to think how fast we have grown in only four short years, and my husband and I often have these “pinch me” moments.

CE: As a female founder of a brand, what makes you tick?

KdG: The other day, one of our new clients contacted us, saying, "I've been searching for a brand like yours for the past decade. A brand that's unafraid to celebrate a woman's femininity and dress her for the power it holds." -  I love this!

I've always believed that femininity is synonymous with strength, confidence, and power. A woman doesn't have to give up her femininity to be strong or a leader in her professional and personal life. That’s the type of woman I envision we are dressing.

CE: How does a regular day in your life as an entrepreneur look?

KdG: As a mother to two young boys overseeing design, strategy, marketing, production, and many other things, I would say it resembles organized chaos right now.

A funny example was just the other day when our email marketing manager sent over an example of "a morning with the founder," depicting a relaxed scene with coffee, mindfulness, and meditation. She lamented that we hadn't yet done one on me, to which I replied, "When I have a morning like that, we will do it," Ha!

CE: What is your most favorite piece that you've designed?

KdG: I get asked this all the time, and I must say it varies. Right now, I am living in our knits, perfect for the capricious Normandie weather and this fickle spring.

CE: Why is it important to you to respect our planet?

KdG: Since becoming a mom, I've become acutely aware of our actions today's impact on the world our children inherit tomorrow. I may not be around to see the devastating effects, but my children will be, and that is sobering. When I think about the world my children will grow up in, I want them to have access to the same natural wonders and resources that we do today. It's not just about what we leave behind; it's about the world we create for our children's future. 

CE: What would it be if you could say one thing to your younger self?

KdG: I would tell myself not to sweat the small stuff because the huge stuff, like running a fashion brand and being responsible for people's livelihoods, is just around the corner. Keep your worry for that, haha!

CE: What legacy would you like to leave on this world? 

KdG: It would be less about my work and more about what kind of men I am raising my boys into. My husband and I aim to raise men who stand for something, have conviction, and recognize the value of hard work while working on something meaningful, leaving a lasting impact on society.

Photo Credit: Gaâla


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