Marianne and Ginger

Deconstructed, Reconstructed Clothing

By Lisa Cook | Photos By Jim J. Narcy

Marianne and Ginger emerged from a year long project entrepreneur Sara Mesmer began working on in 2005. Sara started making unique designs from within her own personal closet. Realizing she already had the foundation for re-constructed clothing, she separated what she owned and put it all into three categories: Keep it, change it, or cut it up for new designs. The process went on to include  a stapler, tape or whatever could be used to fasten, hem and hold the designs together. “Finding a sewing machine became super liberating,” Sara said. “My Grandma taught me to sew in her basement when I was seven, so working on my new wardrobe was a great project to reawaken my old sewing skills.” Once Sara had her wardrobe finished, she kept cutting, sewing and designing.

Before the name Marianne and Ginger came about, Sara called her deconstructed, reconstructed clothing line, Happy Birthday and sold at the now defunct Fabric Lab on Colfax. From this concept, her designs became simpler, more stripped down and the new clothing line Marianne and Ginger was born. Completely up-cycled source material clothing, it was immediately popular among people interested in the environment and anti-consumerism. The line was also comfortable for wearing while practicing Yoga, with stitching that has a lot of give and fabrics that are mostly stretchy.

Each dress is one-of-a-kind. All of Sara’s designs are created on a 1969 Elna sewing machine which was a gift from a neighbor named Tom, a doll maker, who was a fashion illustrator in New York in the 1960s.

Fashion markets and shows have been buzzing with Marianne and Ginger designs. Sara’s daughter, Saskia, helps her at Fashion Denver’s quarterly markets and modeles the clothing line on Denver runways and photo shoots. Sara gushes, “Saskia! My amazing, brilliant, independent daughter. She is definitely the number one inspiration in my life and my greatest Guru. I love and cherish her so much!”
It seems that the clothing line has attracted quite a following and Sara has been able to finance five trips to South India since 2008. “My clientele are the coolest people out there! Seriously. I get a lot of custom orders from women and men, too. Very positive, creative people who have their own sense of style. People who are merging with the universe in one way or another. Because of this type of exchange of energies, my designs have high Prana, or Life Force Energy. Being up-cycled, re-created and essentially community shared, they are full of life.”

New designs are focusing more on function than fashion. Since beginning the process, Sara’s work shows less interest in total fashion and more interest in the transformation of old into new. Fashion will naturally emerge during design and creation, but to her this is not the main goal. A big reward seems to come from friends, family, and clients wearing something that is comfortable, functional, and made by hand out of something that might have been otherwise discarded.

Along with designing and traveling to far off exotic lands, Sara has been involved in the Denver underground music scene since 1999. Her band The Dinnermints, played show after show in dive venues like 15th Street Tavern (now a community garden on 15th and California) and Seven South (now The Hi-Dive on Broadway and Ellsworth). The band began with Doo Crowder (of Pee Pee) on Bass, Peter Carnovale on drums, and Sara leading the band with guitar, vocals and songwriting. The band had the approach of just learning as they went. The audience was their witness. At first, Sara admits, they were quite bad. They tried to keep some of the rawness as a flavor, intact throughout the venture. Never touring but playing relentlessly weekend after weekend. A favorite show was in a basement bookstore at 14th and Ogden with people piled in from the front door to the back of the store, smashing up against the band.

Most recently, Sara has been learning sacred music, or Bhajans, and playing and singing with groups of meditators. She has taught yoga at Samadhi Center for Yoga and Meditation since 2006 in addition to teaching privately. She also offers a teacher training program at the Center. In yoga classes she plays her music to get everyone singing and smiling. “It’s so beautiful and sweet.”

The journey to Yoga began when Sara was 20 years old and her then boyfriend stated she should play guitar and try Yoga. She listened. He gave her a book about Yoga and she carried it around for over a decade, just peeking at it on airplanes. When she finally started to physically practice Asana it was overwhelmingly clear a new path was being forged. “That was it,” Sara continued, “It was a taste of liberation from a mechanical way of life: waking, working, sleeping, dreaming… in a disengaged way”. A few years later in India, she met a Saint, Bhavani Ma, who revealed that she would teach yoga at The Center, and a particular person that would be a sister to her there. “It was all true and I still work there now,” she confirms.

Sara added, “My first visit to India was so amazing. We arrived into Bangalore very early in the morning and headed to a hotel to rest. There were conversations but I was certain that I had no interest in talking at all. I went out to the balcony overlooking the city; wires, plants, trash. I sat there totally absorbed in meditation with no effort.