Also in this collection, the more structural Cortez top with the La Falda skirt. The under-wiring, rouleau loops, and three-tiered built-in hoop skirt with steel boning demonstrate Gaia’s versatility in constructing garments.
As inspiration can be poured from a cup already served, an aspect of a petticoat from the brand’s third collection was transformed into something bigger: the Ruffle Tunnel gown shell. The cream dress with adjustable black ties has been compared to Ariel’s makeshift dress after she metamorphoses into a human in The Little Mermaid, but Gaia says it was an unintentional, unconscious choice.
“When you put pen to paper, when you start working on your computer, when you start draping a garment,” he explains, “or when you’re doing anything to express that, it’s just an amalgamation of other ideas that are all swirled up in your head.”
In The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s struggle between living a double life and yearning for freedom are themes that especially resonate with the queer community. The tale of transformation from mermaid to mortal has always transfixed Gaia, and the theme of transformation has been essential to building this collection. Gaia’s creative ingenuity has always embodied his upbringing. “I am super inspired by my Brazilian heritage,” he says. “Both of my parents are immigrants that came here in the mid-1980s. Growing up in a Portuguese colony in Brazil, there’s this interesting mix of old Europe, but the finishings and the overall execution has this kind of tropical feeling to it.”
Mirror Palais has been accused of appropriating the Catholic Mexican aesthetic, which Gaia denies. Speaking as a Brazilian Catholic man, he says, “you can’t accuse someone of appropriating something that’s already their own culture.” He points to the multiplicity of cultures in South America with ties to Catholicism and European colonization by comparing the Spanish word “empanadas” to the Portuguese word “pastels”: “They’re just the same thing.”
Gaia is reclaiming Catholicism for himself. What once was traumatic is now a source of creativity, curiosity, and strength. The Virgin, the Princess & the Siren is a manifestation of his healing. “When I see a church that I have never gone into, I’ll go inside. And when I go walk inside, and I smell the smells, when I see Christ, I feel comforted,” he says. “So I think all of those characters — the virgin, the siren, the princess — they are comfort characters for me. They make me feel good.”
For Gaia’s first runway collection, which took place at an Episcopal church, the Church of the Ascension, he wanted his clothing to elicit strong reactions. Unintentionally, though, he provoked the religious conscience of some. “A church? REALLY? I mean this is DISRESPECTFULLLLLLLLLLL,” @iamchocolata commented on a Mirror Palais Instagram post.
For his part, Gaia feels there was no disrespect, rather it was a celebration of bodies. After the show, the church’s reverend sent Gaia a letter that called the collection beautiful and thanked him for choosing the church. Although Gaia is proud of himself and his team’s work, he admits there has been a bit of disappointment: Validation from CFDA and Vogue were nowhere to be found after the show. But on TikTok, Instagram, and even Twitter, enthusiasm for Mirror Palais’ fifth collection was widespread.