I sat down two weeks ago with the designers behind the New York based brand Years of Mercí at their Tribeca apartment to discuss fashion, how they came together, what its like running a menswear company and what continues to drive them to pursue their passion.
Tell the world who you are.
I’m Jarrod Blasé. I’m 22 years old, and I live in Manhattan, NY.
I’m Marcello Consiglio. I’m 22 years old, and I live in Queens, NY.
How’d you come up with the name Years of Mercí ?
JB: I was walking down the street one day with my friend Tim and we walked by this church and it had this inscription on the building that read, “Year of Mercy.” I was like, “Yo Tim, what do you think of the name ‘Year of Mercy’? “He was like,”It sounds pretty dope, but I think you should change the ‘y’ to an ‘í’ because in French ‘mercí’ means ‘thank you.’ “So it would be ‘year of thanks’.” Then we sat down and pondered on it for a while. Then I hit up Marcel since we were talking about starting a brand for a while, but we were kind of on-the-fence about it. Anyway, to make a long story short, I told him the name and he suggested adding an “s” to the end of “year”. So that’s how we ended up with the name ‘Years of Mercí’, basically saying, be thankful for what you have and the years to come.
How did you get into fashion and making clothes?
MC: I wouldn’t say we’ve always been fashionable. We grew up in a small town on Cape Cod.
JB: So there’s like no fashion there.
MC: We always thought were into fashion, dressing with style.
JB: Until we got to New York and we were like sh!t. [laughs]
MC: Yeah we got to New York and everything just advanced a lot more, based off our surroundings. It’s always just been something that has intrigued me and that I just loved.
JB: [Fashion’s] something I’ve always been passionate about. Straight out of high school I started a company and it was a nightmare! I ran the brand for two years and I was like “Wow, this is super freaking hard!” So I ended up moving to New York City two years ago, went to FIT, and dropped that brand. Then I wanted to start up another brand, but I did not feel as though I had all the tools that were required to be successful in starting a company. As in, I can understand design in my head and then put it onto a piece of paper and bring it to life, but I’m not the most business savvy person. I feel as though Marcel is, and at the same time he also understands design, and he can see something in his head, put it on a piece of paper and then we can bring it to life. That’s why I wanted to go into business with Marcel. We’ve been boys forever. They say never go into business with your friends.
MC: I’ve always loved fashion. I feel like it is the highest form of art, because it is architecture, movement, and design all in one. It’s also a great way of expressing yourself. I began to take fashion seriously in January of this year though. My mom actually gave me her sewing machine and I began to teach myself how to sew and looked up tutorials online. This was before I even moved to the city. [Jarrod] was already out here and I was trying to teach myself something and become better at it. Then a month later he pitched me the ‘Years of Merci’ idea. Everything took off pretty quickly after that. We just started running with the idea and just putting everything into action.
JB: Sometimes you just have to wing it!
MC: Yeah, so I just recently really, really began to get into fashion this year. As far as dressing and being into style, I’d say for years. However, understanding garment construction, the back end of the fashion industry, and not just putting an outfit together has been very recent.
What is your creative process like? Do you start with a concept first and then go into designing, or vice versa?
MC: The creative process is all over the place. You can’t really control creativity. It comes into your mind like an impulse. Like the other night at 3 a.m, I had all these ideas and I started texting Jarrod all my ideas. I was like, “Yo, we should do this, this, this, and this” [laughs] for so many different garments, enough for almost an entire line! And that was just an impulse that came to my mind. I don’t know how the idea got sparked; it just did. Sometimes, I’ll just be on the train, and someone could be wearing an outfit that starts that process. Maybe, I don’t like their outfit, but there could be this one thing about the outfit that I can tweak to make this or that. I get inspiration from a lot of different things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be clothes. I like architecture, art, and music. I can draw inspiration from those as well.
JB: I’m kind of the same way. I think movies are dope. You can go back in time when you watch movies. Even if it’s not the 70s or 80s, but they create that image through the outfits to make you feel like you’re back in those times. I think it’s cool to watch movies and gain inspiration from them. Also what Marcel said, you gain inspiration from everything. I honestly try to veer away from gaining inspiration from clothes, but I mean, that’s going to happen. You’re naturally going to get inspiration from them anyway because that’s the closet thing you can relate to that you’re trying to make. Nature is also one of the things I draw inspiration from as well. You look at all these buildings in New York and they’re all made by man, but man can never make a mountain, and I find that inspiring.
Who are some of your influences?
JB: Andrew Carnegie. If you read the book Think and Grow Rich, he’s mentioned in there, and he seems to be the backbone of the entire book. That book itself just inspires me to better myself and form better habits. As for designers, I’m inspired by Ronnie Fieg. I don’t think our clothes look anything like his and I’m not necessarily inspired by his personal style, but by his empire and the time he built it in. It’s pretty crazy that someone is able to do that.
MC: That’s a pretty tough question, honestly. When that question comes to mind I can’t pinpoint one person. I get a lot of inspiration from Kanye, as cliche as that may sound. To me he’s like the Steve Jobs of creativity. He’s a huge inspiration. I’m also influenced by Jerry Lorenzo, he’s the designer of the label ‘Fear of God’. Not so much his clothes, but what he created, where he came from, and how he did it. There’s so many sources of inspiration, I can’t just think of one.
What do you like most about designing and being an entrepreneur?
JB: It’s like a baby! Seeing that sh!t grow up! [laughs]
MC: I would say the most rewarding part to me is seeing the progress. Seeing the results from all the hard work and time you’ve put into something.
As far as being a young entrepreneur, I love it! When I graduated, I was working as an accountant for someone for eight months, and I hated it! It was chocking my creativity.
JB: It’s like you’re taking your personal style and presenting it to the world. When someone purchases it, it’s like they’re saying “I like your personal style; I want to be a part of that family you’re trying to present.” I think that’s a super cool feeling.
MC: What I like most about designing is the process of it. I love discussing what we’re going to create and then going to the garment district to source the items we need. We both have that vision in our minds of how we want the product to look. Then finding that fabric and sewing up a sample. Just the whole process.
What do you dislike most about designing/being an entrepreneur?
MC/JB: I don’t think there’s any downside, really.
MC: The thing that bothers me the most is people don’t give artist/designers enough credit nowadays. They can be creating something great, but still won’t give you credit for it, until the designer or artist gains a huge following on social media, of course.
JB: It’s hard for small companies to come up, so it bothers me when someone tells me my stuff is dope, but too expensive. You don’t know the process and work that went into making it from start to finish. Don’t tell me my stuff is too expensive!
What has the journey been like so far, and what drives you to continue?
MC: We started back in February. We were just talking about designs and ideas, bouncing everything back and forth. It was kind of slow starting out. We had to get the little things set up like the website, buying the domain name and sourcing fabrics. That time I wasn’t even living in New York. So when we had to go source the fabric we did it all in one day because I was only here for a weekend. On top of that, we had to design the entire line in one night because that’s all the time we had to do it. We released the first collection July 15th. After that, we began to really push it.
JB: I feel like our biggest obstacle yet was with our last factory in L.A. We originally made everything there, and we were not happy with how everything came out, so we wanted to move all production here in New York. We were trying to find a company that best suited our needs and that was hard. A lot of companies were willing to work with us, but their prices were too high. However we did find this one factory in Brooklyn and they’re super dope. Only problem is they don’t speak English, only Spanish and neither of us speak Spanish. [laughs] Well, they speak a little English.
What are you currently working on now?
MC: We’re working on flannels, denim, hoodies, and an overthrow.
JB: What we’re working on now is dope! The first collection was sort of a trial run. It was our vision, but not what we really wanted to create. The second collection is way more along the lines of what our true personal style is and way more advanced as well. We’re using cuts that I haven’t personally seen before. We’re making some crazy sh!t, but its subtle at the same time. For example, our overthrow is a cashmere wool blend with a satin lining. Our flannel has a drop front which we’re trying to make our signature, as opposed to dropping the back, which is what everyone does.
Where do you see yourself/brand 5 years from now?
MC/JC: Five years!?
MC: A multi-million dollar operation.
JB: We plan on having a store front by then, but we don’t know where yet. We have some dope concepts for the store. Not going to talk on that too much right now. On top of that, we also want to branch off and do a higher and lower-tier brand as well.
What drives you?
MC: Passion. I have a vision, and I want to achieve that vision. If I don’t get up and do it, no one is going to do it for me. No matter what I go through, I keep going.
JB: There’s this quote that says, “A man who wastes an hour of his life is a man who doesn’t know what he’s worth.” I look at that as you always have to be persistent in what you’re doing. I want to be successful for my family. I want to be able to support everybody around me. I want to be that guy. I want to be able to buy my parents a house, my mother a car. I understand that may seem materialistic, but my parents have done a lot for me, and I just want to be able to pay them back. I don’t want them to have to worry about anything.
Anything you want to tell the world, or fellow aspiring creatives/designers/artists?
MC: Stay true to yourself. Create in your own image, and don’t worry about what other people think. You can’t pay your bills with other people’s opinions. Also you have to be passionate about it because you’re not going to make the journey if you’re not.
JB: Forget what everyone else thinks. Do what makes you happy. Just remember that it’s your life and not the people around you.
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All photos courtesy of Years of Mercí.