Interviews

"Fashion: It’s Who I Am." A Conversation with the Dazzling, Distinguished Designer of House of D’Marsh

While most children his age fantasized about becoming professionals in the quotidian fields of medicine, law, and civil service, Jamaican-born designer, Glenroy March, was sketching designs for couture pieces that would one day be the hallmark of his House of D’Marsh collections. March’s scrupulous editing and meticulous designs easily reflect the influence of the great designers of all time. This Jamaican designer has come to take over the fashion world, one couture design at a time.

What inspired you to create House of D’Marsh?
I started building my ideas for House of D’Marsh while working at Trelawny Beach Hotel.  On my days off, I would spend my time working on my brand. I remember in 4th grade, when they asked what I wanted to become, I said to myself,  “I don’t want to be a policeman or a doctor.” But I’ve always loved clothes. I didn’t even know I could be a fashion designer back then, but I loved clothes. I used to style my aunts all the time when they were going out. I’d say, “no don’t wear that, wear this and wear it with that!” I opened my first House of D’Marsh store in Montego-Bay when I was just 20 years old. My first collection launched at Caribbean Fashion Week in 2003.

Can you recall the defining moment when you absolutely knew you would be good at this?
Yes, I was watching The Bold and The Beautiful. There was an episode where Ridge Forrester did a sketch and I was in the living room watching with my cousin, and I copied it. I told my cousin I was going to redo that sketch and he didn’t really pay me any mind. From then (I was 13 years old), I knew I wanted to be a designer.  This show clarified and put the stamp on my passion.

How would you describe your own personal style?
I am very preppy. I don’t overdress. I can put on a suit with a t-shirt and sneakers and it works for me. I can change to fit the event. I’m out of the box. Sometimes it’s the tie that makes my outfit; sometimes it’s other things. I love simplicity! I like to focus on small details like the tie or the cufflinks; it all depends on what I’m trying to portray on that day. The truth is that to most people, it does not matter who you are, but rather what you seem to be, so I try to make sure every outfit is inspired.

From where does your inspiration come when designing a collection?
Architecture and people! I love buildings. I sit and study the lines. I can look at a building and a dress comes into my head. The lines mean something to me. The windows and the shades all fit into a pattern or a design for a piece. I like Greek architecture, in particular, so I research European buildings and I also like modern architecture. New York is good for that. Sometimes I go to 23rd and Madison and just look at the buildings for inspiration.  When I’m doing the cleaner lines, I look at art deco for ready to wear. You know, styles like those you will see on South Beach. But I love New York and the subway is also an interesting place where I find inspiration all the time. I love to recreate people.  So, as I ride the subway or wait for the train, I style people in my mind. You know, even the homeless people inspire me because sometimes they combine unlikely textures and colors and it works, especially with layering! I take inspiration from the homeless person or the girl from 5th avenue. There’s no place like the NYC subway!

Couture, to most people, usually means up to a certain size. Do you cater to all sizes?
Couture should cater to everyone. For House of D’Marsh products in stores, you will only find up to a size 8, but we tailor and cater to all sizes. I won’t make the same style for all sizes though. I like to ensure that my clients all look good in what they are wearing, so I make sure that whatever I design suits their bodies and their personal style. Some women have beautiful shoulders, others have beautiful legs, so when I design, I try to accentuate their best features.

What’s your take on Jamaican style?
I love Jamaican style! It’s a big part of the D’Marsh brand. Jamaica is almost like little New York now. In Jamaica, every area has a different style. In St. Elizabeth, they dress differently than in Mandeville, for example. Jamaican style is very diverse. Some people are on the couture side but then street fashion is very influential. I love the freedom and the extremes that people go to, to look good in the dancehall. I find it interesting. They are very bold and daring and I love the personality in each piece. You know those women, they have their own input in each piece they wear when they get them custom made. I love the colors in Jamaican fashion and the way people blend colors works.

What item of clothing or accessory (if any) do you wish that more of us wore?
I just wish people would wear what fits them.  I want them to couple items that work together and be more conscious of their personal style. I wish that men would go back to wearing classic items like the bowtie, and the classic black and white.  Our D’Marsh signature bowtie was designed for women because every woman loves a gift. Our signature bow is actually unisex. A lot of men buy it and a lot of women wear it. The style of our bow features a larger, rounder shaped tie that is androgynous.

I also wish men would focus more on grooming. We have a full men’s cosmetic collection.  Women spend on luxury items but men also need to feel luxurious. We are taking the step towards bringing luxury cosmetics to the men.  The feel of the body crème is like a silk shirt. It’s all handcrafted in Italy. The ingredients are chemical-free and we have found a way to make natural products feel rich and luxurious.

 *Author’s note: The D’Marsh crème is a combination of strong masculine fragrances that truly feels like silk sheets against one’s skin.

Give us one fashion tip for the season.
Women: get a good black cocktail dress custom made for you. Get a nice white shirt and a pencil skirt. Buy nice pieces that are timeless. Men: Buy a good suit that is durable or have one tailored for you. It’s better to have a few timeless, valuable items than many cheap ones that fade. Oh and every woman should have a nice trench coat. Those few items in the closet can be paired with different accessories for different occasions and each time the same black dress will look brand new.

Who or what has been your greatest fashion influence?
We recently celebrated 10 years since the inception of House of D’Marsh and to commemorate that, I put out a book, which details my life, my collections, and some of my favorite sayings. In the book (which everyone should get, by the way), I explain that I love Valentino!  Anyone who knows me knows of my respect for Valentino’s work. I also love McQueen’s theatrics and Coco Chanel’s strength and her willingness to stand firmly for what she believes. I think if you should put the three of them together, you will find me.

In a nutshell, your philosophy is?
Fashion is only an accessory to your style.

What’s next for House of D’Marsh?
I’m looking forward to my NY Fashion Week presentation. My collection will now include a ready-to-wear line (DM by D’Marsh), consisting of a polo collection and even more cosmetics for men. During Fashion Week, our invited guests will have the opportunity to try on items and interact with the products. It will be exclusive, intimate, and personal, which is the cornerstone of House of D’Marsh. We love to create exclusive items, present them in an intimate setting, while providing personal service to all of our esteemed clients.

Exclusivity is what couture is all about. Who would you love to style?
I’d love to make something for the Dutchess of Cambridge. She’s very much a D’Marsh girl. All of my clients are important and valued but if I were to choose someone, I’d choose Kate.

How can people get a couture piece made by House of D’Marsh?
Find us on Instagram and Twitter  @houseofdmarsh
You can find me at “Glenroy March” on Facebook.
For appointments to enter our showroom at 855 Broadway, email: [email protected]
 

About the author

Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Assistant Professor of Academic Literacy at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of a gregarious little girl. She is a senior writer for jamaicans.com.