Gina Moorhead has built her own house. Thread by thread. Pin by pin. The House of Gina Mariem, her fashion design company, features clothing lines for women and men.
“I’ve always been finely tuned into clothing—the silhouettes, style lines, proportions, details,” Moorhead says. “Observing people’s style and understanding how it relates to their personality has been a part of me for as long as I can remember.” Those memories from long ago also feature her mother, Karen Nelson Moorhead.
“My mother is a very talented seamstress, learning the trade from her mother and grandmother. She helped me cultivate an interest and skill in balancing colors and patterns, as well as the ability to build a piece of clothing from a flat sketch,” Moorhead says. “I recall designing and making my figure skating competition dresses with my mother, and I still have them,” she says. Today, inspiration also grows from “color, emotions and comfort.”
Born and raised in Eden Prairie, Moorhead graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 2003. She still has some family in Eden Prairie, including her mother and father, Gary Moorhead. “I still feel like I have very deep roots in Eden Prairie—family, friends, neighbors and a strong evolving community,” she says. Moorhead received a bachelor’s degree in apparel design and a minor in family and consumer sciences in 2007 from Seattle Pacific University. A master’s degree in women’s fashion came in 2012 from the New York Fashion Academy.
In December 2017, Moorhead moved to Stockholm, Sweden, to join her fiancé, Michael Rutkowski, Ph.D., who was working at Stockholm University. “We did long distance for over a year, and finally, I made the move to Sweden to be together,” she says. “Here, I’ve been able to do a lot of research work, build the brand, connect with the Swedish fashion market, explore the country and meet amazing people.” (The couple returned to the area last month, since Rutkowski accepted a position teaching astronomy and physics at Mankato State University.)
Life in Sweden has also impacted Moorhead’s design perspective. “Stockholm has some of the best style in the world, in my humble opinion,” she says. “There is a semblance of ease, minimalism and sustainability. Therefore, I think that a lot of my fashion sense and design sensibilities have been strengthened.”
When describing her design perspective, Moorhead offers up a Swedish term—Både och (both). “I cherish the fact that nothing and no one is ever one sided,” she says. “We are all ‘both,’ and we all need ‘both.’ Professional and quirky, happy and sad, suit and sequins, calm and chaos. Think Audrey Hepburn on a skateboard.”
Moorhead’s workspace is in a 300-person co-working space called the Castle, located in the Gamla Stan (old town) neighborhood of Stockholm. “The Castle is along the water, across the street from the [Royal] Palace and has a view of the national museum and the Grand Hôtel. We get to see the changing of the guards at noon, complete with the fanfare of the royal horses and marching band,” she says.
Moorhead’s fall/winter 2018 Lovön Collection, debuting during this month’s Minnesota Fashion Week, is inspired by the island of Lovön. “This island is slightly northwest of Stockholm and is where the Drottningholm Palace is located,” she explains. “The Drottningholm Palace translates to ‘The Queen’s Palace.’ Since much of my work is inspired by Nordic culture and heritage, I thought that having my [fall/winter 2018] collection focus on Sweden would be a great idea, especially since my previous [spring/summer] collection was Danish-inspired.” (During Minnesota Fashion Week, there will be a pop-up shop for Gina Marie and its menswear line, GräsMark—for the easy-going man, who embraces floral street style, tailored sport-coats, custom leather shoes and aviator shades.)
What defines a Gina Marie customer? “I design my collection for the modern woman. A woman who appreciates classic, but colorful pieces,” Moorhead says. “I believe that many of the garments that I create can be worn by so many different women that can style it to their liking to make it unequivocally hers.” The Gina Marie woman confidently wears pleats and dropped shoulders, carries a strong leather handbag, and doesn’t shy away from strong prints and color blocking.
“Gina created a jumpsuit for her [spring/summer]18 collection, the København Jumpsuit, and I have been obsessed with it ever since I saw it,” says Whitney Wasko, a University of Minnesota graduate, who oversees Gina Marie’s public relations and social media endeavors.
From concept to creation, it takes Moorhead about a year to complete a line. She’s launched two seasonal collections a year since 2014, with some additional collaborative capsule collections, as well. If a clothing pattern serves as the script, fabric plays an important role communicating a design’s performance. Moorhead broadens her search for textiles, which serve as masterful storytellers. “I’ve been able to source fabrics from all over and tell about their story,” she says. “South Africa, India, Vietnam and even here at home—from Bemidji Woolen Mills.”
The brand’s tailors are located in Vietnam. “I know all of them personally and have made an effort to say who made which product on my website,” she says. “In addition, we have profiles of some of our tailors, which you can find on our blog.”
Items are available online and at Fool Proof in Minneapolis, which is “a shared work space for creativity and collaboration,” Moorhead says. “Here we house the entirety of our samples and collections.” Minneapolis retailers include June on Lyndale Avenue and Queen Anna in the North Loop. “We’ve been steadily gaining a following and building momentum with shops,” Moorhead says. “We love doing pop-ups, and we also accept wholesale orders. We’ve been in shops in Seattle and Minneapolis, but our special customers for custom tailoring [are] much more spread [out]—from San Francisco to Stockholm and between.”
While Moorhead keeps a keen eye on production details, she also tends to a broader picture—ethical sustainability, notes Wasko. “I think the stereotype when we hear of ‘ethical, sustainable apparel’ is that it isn’t the most fashionable apparel; however, Gina’s clothing is completely the opposite,” she says. “She uses high-quality materials, superb tailoring and the garments that she creates are truly amazing pieces.”
Gina Moorhead’s closet might be worthy of a peek or two, and visitors to her bespoke wardrobe will find at least five Moorhead-designated must-haves—navy trousers, a racerback tank, a wool sweater, cute sneakers and a tote bag.
But even designers have guilty pleasures. “I have more than a handful (no-regrets) of sentimental items,” Moorhead says. “I have two of the same plain sweatshirts, one baby blue, one pink—no hood, no logo—they’re from my grandmother’s closet. They have a few stains on them, but they’re perfect to wear around the house—and feel like a warm hug.”
For information about fashion week, visit fashionweekmn.com.
Pop-up shop location information is available at graymatterseries.com.
Fool Proof is open by appointment, which can be arranged through Gina@HouseOfGinaMarie.com and 206.499.0145.