Carly Mark is changing the fashion game with her signature quirky style that seamlessly blends humor with darkness. Through her brand, Puppets and Puppets (@puppetsandpuppets), Carly is proudly ignoring norms and creating fresh looks and flashy pieces that are uniquely her—and the fashion industry is taking note.
“This brand is a representation of me,” says Carly. “It’s a little bit left-of-center. I like things that are wearable, but also a bit strange. And that’s my point of departure.”
Growing up in Detroit, Carly was “always surrounded by art.” The designer’s mom, who is an artist, once walked into her bedroom and found a young Carly drawing dresses. “My mom was like, ‘You’re going to be a fashion designer.’”
Carly’s mom’s prediction eventually came true, but it took working in fine art for a decade in New York for Carly to realize what her true passion was. After realizing the art world wasn’t for her, Carly decided to transition to fashion. “I put a line together. It flowed out of me, and it felt right,” she says. “I was like, ‘Ya this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ I brought everything I knew from fine art into fashion.”
Carly’s fine art background was a pillar of her early inspiration, but it was her wide, eclectic list of interests that really helped set her apart. Horror films, anime, fantasy, and science fiction—to name a few—all helped shape Carly’s aesthetic as a designer. “I love any form of escapism,” she says. “And I love humor.”
Humor, in particular, has been front and center for Carly’s work. In her third fashion season, Carly created a belt with a resin cookie as the buckle. Sensing a trend, Carly then put a resin cookie on a black handbag. “Everyone likes black handbags. Everyone likes cookies,” states Carly. “There we go.”
To Carly, her unique approach to fashion filled a gap in the New York fashion scene. “When I started the brand, I was definitely trying to be a disruptor. I saw a void in New York fashion,” she says. “People weren’t being ridiculous. They weren’t just trying ‘anything.’ And I thought, ‘I could do this. I can fill that void.’”
Carly’s style is driven by the “ridiculous,” but for Carly, the designs are more layered than they seem. “Humor rules me and inspires me and I want to laugh and smile every day,” she says. “But at the same time what really excites me is the intersection of humor and darkness—light and dark. Because it’s both. Everything’s both. And I like that.”
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