What have you been doing for the past year to fend off lockdown boredom? Delsy Gouw took up crocheting, a craft she learned from her mother when she was nine. Fast-forward to 2021 and the New York-based founder of crochet-label Memorial Day is loved for her distinctive, vibrant designs. On Easter weekend, supermodel Bella Hadid posted a photo of herself wearing one of Gouw’s designs at the beach, exuding Y2K energy from her plaid bucket hat to her Playboy bikini. Meanwhile, US vice-president Kamala Harris’s stepdaughter Ella Emhoff and model Kaia Gerber are fans, too — “I have no idea how Kaia found me,” Gouw explains, “but I’m super grateful.”
Knitwear has undergone a welcome renaissance this past year. We all saw Bernie Sanders’ mittens at the presidential inauguration in January, and you may have noticed a rise in woven bucket hats on your daily walks. Models are eschewing ordinary gloves for pastel mittens and 2000s-style knitted bikinis have swiftly become commonplace on Instagram.
However, for Fashion Institute of Technology student Gouw — who is currently in her last year studying marketing and advertising, and interning — turning to textiles was a way to unleash pent-up energy, while launching a new business was something of an awakening. “I didn’t realize I had this creative side to me, and now I think, ‘What have I been doing [this whole time]?’” says the 25-year-old over Zoom from her Brooklyn apartment. “It’s a bit chaotic, but the brand wouldn’t be what it is without my intel.”
The company started off as an online vintage store, but the designer has set her sights on expansion. Gouw’s products are available to buy via her website and at MALL NYC, but she intends to turn her brand into a sustainable venture for the close-knit crochet community. Featuring poppy block colors, her playful creations vary from snazzy checked bucket hats to gradient thongs and mood-boosting shoulder bags — and they embody eccentricity and a youthful edge, which keeps millennials and TikTokers flooding her Instagram page in droves.
Here, Gouw reveals the secrets to her dizzying success and how our generation is reshaping and rethinking sustainable fashion.
Where did the inspiration for Memorial Day come from?
“The name itself came from my birthday, as I was born on Memorial Day [the last Monday of May in the US]. Initially, I had an online vintage store named Memorial Day, but due to COVID-19, I was unable to source anything and thought, ‘What else can I do?’ So, crocheting became a hobby and the first item I made and sold was a shoulder bag for my best friend. One day it might be a thong and another, a statuesque hat.”
Ella Emhoff and Kaia Gerber have worn your designs. How does that feel?
“I’m so grateful for word of mouth because I feel like it’s been a trickle effect [with my brand]. Ella reached out to me as she wanted to do a trade, which was amazing as I love her work. So we ended up trading items and thankfully, it all lined up. Trades with other creators and designers are great because it’s our way of saying I respect and admire your work. Kaia messaged me and I had no clue how she found me, but again, I’m super grateful. If my goal had been to attract celebrities, I wouldn’t have been able to focus on what I have right now.”
Has crocheting provided solace for you during lockdown?
“Definitely! I get lost in crocheting so much that sometimes I lose track of time or forget to sleep. Turning to crochet has worked out really well, particularly being indoors so much. I’m lucky that it only takes a hook and some yarn — it’s so simple and I don’t need any machines. Luckily, sourcing yarn has been pretty easy. I only buy it from Joann and I buy in bulk. Eventually, I want to switch to more sustainable and even deadstock yarn.”
Who would you most love to wear your designs?
“Harry Styles. He’s such a big star and a huge influencer. His American Vogue cover wearing a Gucci dress felt like such an important moment for so many people. If he wore something of mine, not only would it be amazing, but it would also be contributing to the narrative that there is no men and women’s clothing. It’s just clothing.”
Why do you think generation Z has a particular love for sustainability and DIY in fashion?
“TikTok influences me a lot. My feed is constantly flooded with videos on how to rework vintage items or crocheting complete suits. The fashion industry has changed so much, people are now looking for pieces that will last a lifetime. Clothes that are fun. Clothes that speak to them. Clothes that aren’t just a fad. There’s still this big misconception that it’s all about granny squares — it’s so versatile.”
What does the future hold for your brand?
“I have a few collaborations coming up with some exciting designers. The first will be with The Consistency Project and we’ll be creating a ready-to-wear collection using sustainably sourced yarn — we aim to launch it this spring. I’ll also be working on a bikini line with Tyler McGillivary, which will hopefully drop this year. One of my big goals for Memorial Day is to be able to teach people more about the different approaches and even create tutorials, similar to Wool and the Gang.”