Once upon a time, says Marshall Columbia, he was not “familiar with the fashion industry” – a surprising fact given the stratospheric rise of his namesake brand over the past year. The Denver-born, Brooklyn-based designer first dabbled in costume design, working with drag queens and then picking up shows on TV. “It was really fun,” he told British Vogue on Zoom in on a rare and not so manic Monday. “[But] it didn’t really speak to me. I always wanted to have my own brand.
The pandemic found Marshall at a crossroads: his regular work was scarce, meaning he had more free time and an incentive to earn money. In true Gen-Z style, he dived headfirst into Depop, listing his plush bead bags on the platform. The puffy neon pouches had an overwhelming response (they continue to sell consistently), prompting Marshall to embark on a full-fledged independent business.
Following the success of these spongy bags, he created a capsule collection, which was quickly taken over by online retailer Ssense. Next comes the attention of celebrities. Her first defining moment came when Miley Cyrus wore a gray suit embellished with a matching sparkly triangle bikini top in the back for a performance in November.
Now that it’s summer, her designs seem to be in every It-girls suitcase. Olivia Rodrigo and Dua Lipa fell in love with Marshall’s neon mandarin and puffy green bags, respectively, and Lipa packed a lot more extra pieces for a recent vacation. Marshall Columbia’s Tippex white cutout mini skirt (model Paloma Elsesser owns the same), a black keyhole cutout jumpsuit, and never-before-seen blue patterned dividers all appeared on her Instagram. Another fan is Bella Hadid, wearing a cornflower blue beaded bodysuit on a getaway, which Marshall promises to be available for purchase as part of her “cartoon-inspired” 02 capsule in September.
The designer has a lot more in the pipeline. He’s collaborated with other independent brands Blobb and TD Kent on jewelry and eyewear collections, which are due out at the end of next month. And fans will be delighted to hear that more of her Flower Power rugs, made in partnership with her artist friend Cassaundra Rachal, are on the way.
Originally a one-man-band, Marshall now has a studio and several interns to help him. Its key factories are nearby, in Brooklyn and Manhattan, while an Indian manufacturer takes care of its rugs. All of the beading is done in-house – despite being so busy, Marshall still takes the time to enjoy his therapeutic hobby.
According to Marshall, his playful designs are intrinsically linked to his own personal experiences. “A lot of my inspiration comes from different memories, from childhood memories, and I guess I tried to create a feeling of nostalgia,” he says. “Since I was a child, I have always loved bright colors. I liked to tinker and make things. Beading is something I’ve always loved to do, so I like to bring that back into what I’m doing now.