Catching Up With Maryam Dalan of Peeler Gear

A few weeks ago, I was at a fashion event in East Hollywood checking out some new designers and their collections. As I was walking around a room packed with a myriad of different clothing and jewelry designs, one collection caught my eye. I am someone who enjoys all aspects of fashion and I love an opportunity where I can get creative with my wardrobe, but overall I am a laid-back girl who likes my hoodie sweatshirts and tee shirts. When I saw Peeler Gear, I was immediately fascinated by these simple, comfortable looking tees and tank tops stamped with an edgy logo of an Old English 'P' with flight wings. As I began talking with creator Maryam Dalan, I became more and more intrigued by what the line had to offer. Hailing from New York with a background in film, Maryam came out to Los Angeles with no background in fashion design, rather the determination to see what she could do creatively. As we were talking, I felt like there was much more to learn about the inspiration behind Peeler Gear, so naturally I asked if she had time to chat more. Maryam was kind enough to answer some questions on what her line is all about.

Q: First off, the idea for the name Peeler is really clever. What exactly is it behind the word "Peeler" that makes it such an interesting choice for a brand name?

A: Peeler was originally a name they used for policemen in the UK back in the 1800s, but it was also a name for a stripper during the Depression because they would quite literally peel their clothes off. I really liked the irony of the word and its empowering meaning. I totally wanted to capitalize on the stripper/cop theme. That is how I started getting into the comics that came on the nametag.

Q: That was actually my next question, you have these really unique and quirky nametags on all of your pieces. Do you create those yourself or do you have other illustrators work on those?

A: Once I decided on the Peeler name and what it was all about, I had this idea to start making hangtags with these comic strips with storylines about strippers and cops. I just started cranking out all these different ideas and storylines. It is a three-panel comic strip, with the men's tag storyline about these cops in London and the women's line has Peeler girls running around in their panties. I have a great illustrator by the name of Bill Bronson come in and I just pitch some ideas. He will come back with all these storyboards and I will pick and choose. I write all the stories in them and they are all totally unique. It is just a really fun way to make an impression on the buyer.

Q: One of the hottest trends right now is really about the simple hoodies, sweats, and tees that American Apparel and Juicy Couture are capitalizing on. How do you feel you set yourself apart in overall design and the message that Peeler offers?

A: We are a lifestyle brand, Juicy originally positioned themselves' as activewear and we are doing the same kind of thing, but keeping it focused on just that. All of our fabrics are manufactured in America, and some from Central America. We are about the super distressed fabric, the ribbing on the sides for a more fitted look, and long cuffs as opposed to shorter, folded ones; we have really good cuts on our clothes. We tend to focus less on design and more on how the cuts fit. I am opposed to the trendy busy look and try to keep the look cleaner and more classic. We want the quality of the shirt or the jacket to outweigh all these crazy designs. We are mad scientists when it comes to how we test our materials out. We have been playing around with stretchers and adhesives to make the strongest glitter glue and foils, I mean we will drive a car over it to see how strong our adhesives are. The outcome of all of our testing is that our glitter glue and foils that have staying power. They are not going to crack or peel off the clothes after they have been through the wash. I think one of the most unique things about Peeler, however, is that every one of our styles is a limited edition. We will only release up to 500 of the same style. That way, you are getting a totally unique look that no one else will have.

Q: I definitely think fashion and music go hand in hand and Peeler definitely has that whole Rock n' Roll vibe. Does music have any influence on what you are doing over at Peeler?

A: Music and fashion totally go together, but I am not necessarily inspired by music. I am more into the way colors go together and the way clothes fit people for inspiration. I will walk down the street and become inspired by some kid wearing a jacket that has a James Dean-esque collar or the other thing I have been paying attention to is the whole retro 70s nylon windbreaker. I have a really hot one that is coffee-colored with gold trimming. Keeping a focus on sportswear helps perfect the rock n' roll look. I think of it as the Rock N' Roll Athlete who is ready to go out to party. Peeler has a sexy history, the idea of stripper/cop and the role reversals really makes it stand out.

Q: One of the best parts about Peeler clothing is the simple, universal styles you offer. Even though you have a men and women's line, the designs that could be worn by anyone. Do you feel that fashion should be more androgynous? Do you think Peeler is playing around with the cross gender appeal, especially with the tees, thermals, and track jackets?

A: Oh yeah I definitely feel our line has the ability to be worn by men and women. I pay attention to my color schemes, for example we love doing turquoise and white together because it works for both. I think it is supposed to be open to interpretation. The fits of our clothes and the materials are so good that it makes it easier to pick and choose. One of our styles that was super popular was our 'Maria' jacket. It was this track zip-up that we were originally selling as a men's jacket. All these girls started coming into the store asking for this jacket. It is funny how guys want girl's thermal, and women ask for men's jackets. It all depends on the fit and we have so many different cuts that it makes it easy for people to find stuff that is comfortable and still looks sexy.

Q: Do you feel your designs are more or less catered to a more indie, rock n' roll look?

A: I don't think so. We have a really diverse audience who are into our line. We have rap artists calling us up, we have people totally into the preppy punk look into what we are doing, it is about the quality of the clothes that makes them so appealing to so many people. There are so many t-shirts out there with all these crazy things on them, I have to wonder what I have that others don't. I am always freaking out like 'oh my God, should I stay classic and clean or get more into all these different and crazy designs?' It is always on my mind, but I want to make clothes that will last and a lot of the people wearing Peeler, whether they are more urban or punk rock, are on the same page as me. So I mean, I love that a variety of different people are into what I got going on.

Q: You have some hot new stuff out right now like some new zip-up hoodies, golf shirts and womens' tanks. What are you most excited about for the future of Peeler?

A: I have so many things on my plate right now. The golf shirts are super popular. I mean they are so cute, so fitted. They are tissue thin with this really feminine collar and it buttons down. I have also been working on this men's western shirt with button down snaps. It is all about the little details. I am super excited about the snap buttons that I found for this shirt, they are a raspberry color to match the trimming and the shirt is going to be coffee colored. It is going to be so simple in design, but all the details are going to make it a totally rad shirt. We love keeping the cuffs long on all of our shirts so this shirt will not be an exception. On one of the cuffs we are going to put the Peeler logo. I am also starting messenger bags, belt buckles, and I am entertaining the idea of doing a really simple, sexy jersey dress. We still are doing cute new panty designs and the other really unique thing we have going on is we have started to put our Peeler Girl on the back of our hoodies in a glitter screenprint. Of course the guys felt all left out and people started asking about putting the Peeler Cop on some stuff so we are working on that too. The last really cool thing going on is we have been looking to expand to a more Eastern-inspired look on our gear too. We thought it would be cool to incorporate some Arabic words and phrases onto our shirts. We also found this awesome Eastern-inspired dragonfly design that we are going to start putting on some of the lower left back of women's tees. I think the thing to our line is it is so sexy. I mean the whole idea of the good girl and bad cop (or vice versa) is this idea that everyone has at least thought about. We all have wanted to let loose and dance on tables or whatever, you know?

Q: Definitely true and you have a lot of really hip new stuff on the horizon. What's next for Peeler, any parties or promotions to look out for?

Dexter Premiere which is a Showtime series, the 'L Word' premiere, Pool Trade Show in Vegas, Toronto film festival, Thread Show in San Diego, Rockstar:SuperNova and the opening of LaDita (a super hot new boutique in Silver Lake).

Q: Ok, so I have to ask' is there any celebrities or musicians we should know about that have been caught in some Peeler gear?

A: Wilmer Valderama, JC Chasez, Shane West, Carl Lewis, Ashley Parker Angel, Jeff Probst, Eagles of Death Metal, P. Rod Jr., Holly Robinson Peete, Garcelle Beauvais, Chris Rock, Macy Gray, Angie Harmon, Kevin Nealon, Mary Louise Parker, Peaches, Brittany Murphy, Snoop Dogg, Tommy Lee, and Dave Navarro, Portia de Rossi, Pink, Kim Catrell, Nicole Ritchie.

Q: You definitely have received some good exposure with some of those names. Do you feel you have to be aggressive and strategic to get your name out there?

A: Everything is against the grain at Peeler. We put ourselves out there in Hollywood, our store and warehouse is located in Hollywood and we like it better than being in downtown L.A. Keeping it Hollywood based goes with the whole feel of our line. People like that about us, we have had a great response from a lot of people. We like putting ourselves out there, it is important to grow organically.

Q: Last question, what do you think is the best part about being a designer? You definitely seem like the kind of person who would be more stoked to see people wearing Peeler around town than on a runway, even though that is not a bad deal either.

A: I love going around and seeing what everyone is wearing. When I first got out here to Hollywood, I would go around asking to look at people's tags in his or her shirt. I was relentless because I loved the possibilities of what I could do with all the ideas I had. I love having the room to grow creatively. Coming from a production and film background, I left with a lot friends who helped me find the right spots to hit to meet some cool people who would want to wear my clothes. I would talk to stylists whose clients had the letter 'P' in their names and see if they wanted samples of my line.

I mean, apparel and the celebrity are an important team. Lines will come out and the exposure it gets depends on how persistent and passionate you are about what you are doing. There is no game plan in apparel, the new and old school mentalities on how you get your look out there are definitely meshing together. I have no problem giving samples out. I was walking down the street a couple of weeks ago and I saw this guy wearing one of my jackets. I got all stealthy and finally got across the street and was all 'Hey, where did you get that jacket?' He was all freaked out and stuttered about how one of his friends received it in a gift bag from the premiere of Brotherhood. I explained to him how I was the designer and it was a jacket that had not been released yet. I totally did not care how he had got the jacket, I just thought it was totally rad he was wearing it (laughs). He thought I was all mad, but I love just seeing people out on the street rocking my gear. I think the most important thing I learned as a newer designer is that creating is creating, regardless of the media.

Want more Peeler? Visit Peelergear.com or myspace.com/peelergear to check out some of the unique clothing they have to offer. Store Hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. or by appointment.

Peeler is located at: 1154 Northwestern Studio A Hollywood, 90029

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