Meet The Gaâla Girl: How One Parisian Designer Is Reviving Slow Fashion In An Industry Oversaturated With Mass-Produced Clothing

If you’ve been told you have an “old soul,” this boutique-style fashion brand, built upon a foundation of true love and a desire to do good, could help create your dream capsule wardrobe.

By Andrea Mew4 min read

Sophistication meets minimalism – the French aesthetic is an enduring staple in fashion for good reason. While many fast-fashion clothing manufacturers, including Boohoo, Shein, Primark, FashionNova, and others, are chomping at the bit to capitalize on the next “niche” fashion trend, brands like Gaâla are proud to bear a slow fashion label.

Founded in 2019 by husband-and-wife duo Alexander Zhalezka and Kelly de Gaalon, French brand Gaâla has a vision for time-honored silhouettes, classic ensembles, and elegant separates. This apparel is meant to stand the test of time, and not something you'll wear once to fit a trend. 

Not only is Gaâla carving out a much-needed community for the fashion-forward among us who want clothing to last more than one season, the brand has also amassed admirers for crafting clothes sustainably using upcycled, yet unmistakably upmarket fabrics. I sat down with Gaâla cofounder Kelly de Gaalon to get the skinny on her impeccably feminine brand.

Shopping Small Puts Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Crafting entire collections of ready-to-wear garments while keeping genuine sustainability at the forefront of your business is no simple task, but de Gaalon is passionate about her contributions to the fashion industry. Each Gaâla piece is made from upcycled or dead stock fabrics left over from fashion houses that have no use for the materials. Whether due to post-production surplus or overstocking, de Gaalon sees a noble use for these fabrics (exclusively cotton, viscose, linen, silk, and wool) which would otherwise end up in landfills.

“We give these beautiful materials a second life. However, due to the limited nature of dead stock materials, our quantities are uniquely limited. This means that for the majority of our designs, once sold out, we aren’t able to make them again in that same fabric,” explains de Gaalon about the hand-craft process which takes place in small European workshops. “We sometimes produce only a few pieces in one fabric which can sell out very fast. Therefore, we are constantly searching for beautiful, quality fabrics in which to reintroduce popular designs.”

This workflow is a refreshing return to the days before fast fashion took over our markets, whetting our appetite for quick, cheap, and poorly constructed garments so that we can be part of fleeting trends. Not only are cheap brands oversaturating the retail industry with low-quality clothing, but most fast-fashion brands are ubiquitously known for engaging in forced and/or child labor.

It may seem intimidating to make a shift away from your mall or online shopping staples, but even replacing just one or two pieces each year can make a difference. Look for ethical swaps from brands that humanely source their materials and stand resolute for healthy, positive work environments, like Gaâla.

As we leave winter behind, Gaâla has just launched Act 1 of their spring collection, titled Riviera Rendezvous. Inspired by the tasteful glamor of the French Riviera and photographed in Cannes, the collection consists of just over 50 pieces. 

Compared to Zara’s 500 new designs released each week – or 20,000 styles per year – fashion brands like Gaâla offer young women a definitively more principled option to not only talk the sustainability talk, but also walk the walk.

De Gaalon says that her company keeps the mantra “create for the needs of today while enabling the needs of future generations” front of mind while adapting the way they craft garments to recapture fabric “waste.” In the United States alone, we throw out over 34 billion pounds of textile waste every year. Once discarded, 85% of those textiles sit in landfills, potentially taking hundreds of years to decompose, or are incinerated. 

Gaâla combats fabric waste by acting as “treasure hunters” who, according to their website, travel to draw inspiration from cultures and ateliers across the world and collaborate with smaller textile companies that already produce sustainable, high-quality fabrics. As such, there’s no overproduction problem since Gaâla operates on a preorder system where they gauge customer interest in a particular style before bringing it to production. Then, their tailors Alena and Alina and sample cutter Olga work with de Gaalon, Zhalezka, and collaborating designers to bring the Gaâla Girl looks to life.

Who Is the Gaâla Girl?

Equal parts romantic, idealistic, and mindful, de Gaalon says that the Gaâla Girl “understands she doesn’t have to compromise her femininity to get all that she wants out of life.” This perspective comes as a breath of fresh air when comparing garments made by Gaâla to your commercially-available women’s work attire. 

More often than not, workwear from Forever 21, Topshop, and other similar brands try to push the boundaries of gender norms and design clothing with distinctly unfeminine silhouettes. For example, Zara has been designing “ungendered” garments, which critics have called out for being “shapeless, lacking color and outwardly masculine,” while H&M also released a gender-neutral collection with a “distinct unisex silhouette” in mind. 

In contrast, de Gaalon says her brand personality is rooted in celebrating the women out there who “are not afraid to embrace their feminine side.”

The Gaâla Girl isn’t just of a Parisian disposition, however. Each collaborative collection that Gaâla launches offers unique cultural twists that reflect the collaborator’s heritage. For instance, Gaâla’s creative director Paola Cossentino calls Italy home, which is why her recently released collaborative collection Paola Cossentino x Gaâla Limited Edition harkens back to old-world Italian nostalgia and glamour. 

“When working on collaborative collections, it's always important to reflect the personality and style of the collaborator whilst maintaining Gaâla’s ethos,” says de Gaalon. “Working with Paola Cossentino is always a delight, as she truly understands the brand’s philosophy and audience.”

Scrolling through the full collection, I can just picture iconic Italian actresses like Monica Belluci wearing the collection’s Monica Dress, or Sofia Loren dolled up in the Esme Corset or Amore Playsuit. I don’t know about you, but this line just makes me crave comfortably warm summer afternoons, sipping on a Boulevardier cocktail or refreshing Aperol Spritz, dining al fresco.

A Paradigm for Parisian Panache and Romance

Though Gaâla draws inspiration from more countries than just France, principles of French style are carried through each garment. “French style offers a refreshing shift, embodying a timelessly chic capsule wardrobe where simple pieces can be effortlessly transformed from day to night for any occasion,” explains de Gaalon.

Indeed, Parisian fashion is world-renowned for good reasons. French women base their wardrobes on investments over trends, a healthy balance between casual and formal attire, sensible yet chic footwear, flattering neutral colors that can be endlessly mixed and matched, delicate jewelry in lieu of statement pieces, and, in general, you won’t catch a French girl flaunting overt brand labels. 

De Gaalon explains that the bedrock of Parisian style is based on simplicity and capturing the essence of Paris itself. This Parisian aesthetic, which “cuts through the busyness of modern-day life,” is the quintessential minimalistic style. In practice, de Gaalon says this looks like a “laid-back approach to styling,” from the way French women style their hair to their shoes. As such, followers of Parisian style personify “moments of calm to release from the over-stimulating visuals,” which we are otherwise inundated with day after day.

“The secret to French style and living is investing in and focusing on quality over quantity,” shares de Gaalon.

In discovering the artistic muses that inspire her the most, de Gaalon primarily looks to classic, trail-blazing women who, despite being figures of bygone eras, have enduring, powerful legacies. She explains that her top fashion icons, such as Coco Chanel, Josephine Baker, Grace Kelly, and Lauren Bacall, pioneered fashion for the modern consumer through timelessly elegant style and their impeccable taste.

Minimalism, thoughtfulness, and investment are all key tenets of the timeless nature of Parisian fashion, but these elements also define another well-known aspect of French culture: romance. The Gaâla brand is built upon a foundation of strong, faithful love, as displayed by the husband-and-wife duo.

“My husband, Alexander, was so supportive from the start, sharing business and finance ideas,” says de Gaalon. “I knew we were all in when he then agreed to sell something really important to us to fund the early stages of our growing business. That's true support and love!”

De Gaalon explains that their marriage brings unique strengths and perspectives to Gaâla. She is more spontaneous and shoots for the stars, while Alexander takes a more methodical, analytical approach. Though some may find it challenging to communicate with the opposite sex – and perhaps couldn’t fathom working with their spouse – de Gaalon and Zhalezka love working together, as they bring out the best in each other.

“Alexander and I strive to communicate openly and listen to each other's opinions,” de Gaalon points out. “We recognize that our diverse experiences and skill sets are crucial to our business success, and we can achieve our goals more effectively by working together and respecting each other's ideas, which we do. At the end of the day, we share a deep commitment to the success of Gaâla and have complete trust in each other's abilities to reach our goals.” 

Closing Thoughts

It’s pretty clear that Gaâla has the je ne sais quoi that a 21st-century woman – who has likely been told she has an old soul – craves in a sea of flashy, trashy fast fashion. In its foundation, Gaâla blossomed out of one woman’s passion to revive class and elegance in fashion.

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