Photographed by Jake Jones


Vacation wear has never been more on-trend, and new label Merlette is hitting all the right marks.

Merlette is easy to pack. In fact, the recently launched New York-based label is specifically designed for travel and vacation. The collection is comprised of off-the-shoulder, trapeze style dresses and wraparound shirts in 100% cotton, and comes in simple summer colors: white, black and a splash of dramatic, bold red. 


After realizing the niche for loungewear that was more cocktails than chaise, Brooklyn-based designer Marina Cortbawi set out to create a label that provides women with fashionable pieces both chic and comfortable, and launched her collection exclusively on Moda Operandi and in July. Cortbawi’s background is in fashion business—she previously held positions at Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera where she managed international sales—although she studied journalism and took design classes at Central Saint Martins and the London College of Fashion. She also spent time in Paris and London after relocating from her native Sydney, Australia. Her jet-set lifestyle also inspired her to create pieces that could be thrown into a suitcase or overnight bag, and then worn multiple ways. “I was born in Australia with Lebanese heritage,” she explains. “In Australia, so much time is spent outdoors and it’s much more of a dressed down lifestyle. I love that. The Lebanese influence is more high fashion, which is definitely a part of me too, and the women in my family love to dress up for any occasion. Merlette incorporates both attitudes and the pieces are a hybrid—they can work for day or night depending on how you choose to style them.”

 Photographed by Jake Jones

Travel, and the women who embark on journeys around the world, serve as Cortbawi’s biggest inspirations (plus stylish women from the ‘60s and ‘70s who thought nothing of jumping on a jet with a suitcase packed full of bikinis, cotton basics, and a headscarf). “The women who I meet during my travels, their sense of style and places I have visited are constant influences,” she says. “I try to imagine what women would like to wear when they’re journeying and where they might be going. I also love using style icons when determining the mood of the collection. I reference classic icons like Jane Birkin, Françoise Hardy, Carla Bruni and Charlotte Rampling. For style icons of today, I love Lea Seydoux and Sofia Coppola. Female heroines of yesteryear like Joan of Arc also inspire me.”

Cortbawi’s personal style also influences her pieces. “I've always loved fashion and was drawn to clothes that were feminine and fluid with beautiful cuts and unique fabrics. My favorite thing to wear is a white cotton blouse with a big sleeve and a pair of jeans, and flat sandals. I don't like to think too much about how I dress, it's all about having basics and buying quality fashion pieces and to build upon them with accessories and your personal touch.”

1. What do you eat for breakfast?
Vegemite on toast.

2. What did you last dream about?
I dream very vividly, but I can’t remember the last one!

3. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
To travel through time and space .

4. What is your spirit animal?

5. Biggest vice?
Material Vodka on the rocks!

6. If you could swap lives with anyone in history (alive or dead), who would it be?
Frida Kahlo.

7. What is your favorite song?
Lisztomania by Pheonix.

8. Favorite artists?
Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, and Rebecca Horn.

9. If you could wear one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A white cotton tiered dress.

10. Any hidden talents?
Hot dog eating.