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Rock & Roll Designer Duo Mark & Estel Are Inspired by Hollywood Drives

The designers at their fall/winter 2014 show. Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">Mark & Estel</a>
The designers at their fall/winter 2014 show. Photo: Mark & Estel

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Many multi-hyphenates who find success through one passion tend transition into other talents once they nab the spotlight (hello, J. Lo), but not music-making duo Estel Day and Mark Tango. The Malibu-based designers joined forces in the name of both style and sound to create Mark & Estel, a line of edgy apparel and accessories inspired by their very own songs. Founded in 2005, the brand first became known for its rock 'n' roll-ready basics, leggings, and sweaters ($129 to $364), and expanded into ready-to-wear last year; both lines are shoppable online at designer boutique Madison.

Day and Tango met in the early 2000s through mutual friends in LA's music scene and bonded over their shared vision of fusing fashion and music into one art form. The formula seems to be working, as Mark & Estel counts stars like Mary-Kate Olsen and Lady Gaga among its famous fans. Today, the label staged its fourth New York Fashion Week runway show, complete with a grand finale performance by the designers themselves.


Mark & Estel designers Estel Day and Mark Tango at their Malibu studio and showroom.

In addition to producing all of their pieces in the U.S., the designers offer their entire archive in any size. "If someone is super, super small or if they're a size 4XL, we custom-make any size for our clients," says Day. "We also catalog any size that we've ever made, so it's available all the time. If someone likes something from 2008, we'll make it again."

Before heading off to NYC, Day and Tango sat down with us their oceanfront studio in the 'Bu to chat about the story behind their line (hint: it involves Friendster), what inspires their designs, and more.

What's the story behind the brand--How did the two of you meet, and what led to to found Mark & Estel?
ED: I had a mutual friend of ours bring me to a show at the Mint. I saw Mark playing guitar onstage and I thought, "He’s hot, I’ve never seen him in this band before." I was immediately just intrigued by his guitar playing. [My friend] introduced me to him and we did some music projects together. We actually kind of lost touch. I went off and got trained in fashion and he went and started making music professionally for movies and bands. And then we came back together and did music and fashion as one art form.

MT: We started in a studio apartment in Hollywood.

ED: In the very beginning, we were two grungy musicians sewing t-shirts out of our studio apartment. The line really grew to a point where we were able to handle a ready-to-wear collection in all senses—resources, finances.


Looks from the brand's fall/winter '14 runway show. Photo: Mark & Estel

What inspired you to reconnect?
ED: We reconnected on Friendster! Without Friendster, there would be no Mark & Estel.

Tell us more abut the design process. What comes first, the music or the clothes?
MT: Most collections we do, we’ll make the music first or just a rough version so we know the songs and the story that [they'l] tell. We want the collection to tell the same story.

ED: We like to start with a theme or what we’re feeling at the time creatively. Sometimes we take drives and we’re just driving and talking and we’ll get inspired by that. We kind of come up with a song, and from there we go into the collection and we start coming up with ways to express the songs and the music.

Tell us more about the fall/winter 2015 collection.
MT: This collection is called "Stairway to the Stars," and it’s a continuation of the saga of our previous collections. Our spring/summer '14 was called the "New World Collection," the fall/winter '14 was the "Old World Collection," and spring summer 15 was "The Malibu Anthem Collection."

The inspiration is pretty fantasy-driven, but for this collection we’re saying it’s kind of a royal collection. Everybody can be royal, you are already a royal in yourself. The way we see fashion and style [is] everybody has it.

ED: Our song "Stairway to the Stars" is also about that.


Th brand's spring/summer 2014 show.

Malibu isn't the first place we think of when it comes to LA's creative meccas. Did moving closer to the coast affect your designs?

ED: I was originally a little hesitant to move out here at first because I thought I was going to want to relax and go on vacation all the time. But coming here has been way more inspirational, I’m actually way more creative in Malibu than I was in Hollywood; which is weird because you would think [otherwise]. Wen you look at the ocean and you have calmness all around you, suddenly you’re filled with so much inspiration. There’s an eclectic group of musicians and artists out here that no one ever thinks about.

MT: A lot of inspiration comes from nature, so the beautiful nature of Malibu definitely helped us. We’ve always been inspired by nature. So even when we were working in Hollywood, we’d go on a drive and be inspired.

What have you done differently in your latest range?
ED: [With our basics] collection, we were using 100% cotton; and it was just knit fabric. With this ready-to-wear collection, we've used imported fabrics form Italy, we've branched into lots of silk and wool, we’re still trying to do natural fibers. We’ve really branched out into many different textiles with this collection.

MT: And also with this particular season, we are now printing our own fabrics. We’re launching a whole new array of printed fabrics by Mark & Estel that have unique designs on them.

ED: We also branched out into accessories this season; we’re launching hosiery [and] silk-chiffon scarves. Those are actually launching right before the show. We have a new song coming out called "Mannequins," and it was actually inspired by the window we did for [LA designer boutique] Madison.