Gena Culler-Green, the owner of G Culle, is an inspiring woman that started her own sustainable upcycling brand, where she is able to repurpose her client’s old clothing and make something entirely new and unique. She studied fashion in college, focusing on buying and consulting. After her husband passed, she began to repurpose his clothing into garments for their children, as a means to bring her children closer to their father. She started doing this to give her children some closure, but it ended up being her therapy, a way for her to work through her grief, and a way for her to pay tribute to him. She was a welder at the time and repurposing was her side hobby, but she could not hide her love of repurposing clothes. This brand, coupled with the cry for sustainability in the fashion industry, has since become her passion project. She works with her clients to repurpose clothing and create something unique, at an affordable price, with the own personal flair of each client. She enjoys being able to connect with her clients and assist them in coping with their sorrow via clothing and fashion design. Many of her clients bring her apparel to their deceased friends, relatives, or loved ones in hope to honor and incorporate those that have passed into their daily lives.
What does the future of fashion mean to you?
As a designer and as someone who knows the importance of at least trying to leave the best footprint for Earth, it really means to be grateful. For me, part of gratitude is not necessarily wanting everything as it flows as it comes but mixing a little bit of the old with the new, and cherishing the things you have. If your jeans still fit you and they look good, find a way to spice it up, meet with another artist, just keeping our planet as safe as we can at this point with what we know. The future of fashion means responsibility for designers.
Was there anyone/thing specific that inspired you to pursue this career?
When I was in high school, I had this attitude that I knew what I wanted to wear and that I really didn't care what other people thought of what I dressed. This attitude gave me the kind of self-confidence that is so difficult to find in teenagers. Fast forward to now, I pull from that part of myself. Whenever they say if you could reach back to your past self, what would you say? She deserves my sincere gratitude since, if it weren't for that perspective when I was younger, I believe I would be approaching things today quite differently. I really love doing my own thing, going to the beat of my own drum, and it's amazing how other people respond to it. I am a misfit- and I love being a misfit.
How did being a Black creative in a primarily white institution in college affect you and your work?
It was hard not having someone to look up to that was a seamstress and I really didn’t have that in my circle. My grandmother did sew but it was more so for necessity, but having someone that designs with style and with invention and creativity, I did not have that. I was kind of the odd man out. I did not learn how to sew in college, I taught myself later in life because I really wanted to pursue that.
If you could design for one brand, which would it be and why?
It would be Tracy Reese! She is one of the people I looked up to, I didn’t know her at the time obviously, but definitely her Hope for Flowers brand, I would absolutely sign myself up. Even just being someone there to steam the garments, because of what that brand means to sustainability, what is means to a black woman emerging in the field, what it means to the city of Detroit, it would just be such an honor.
How does working in an industry with few Black women designers affect you and your work, especially when you entered the industry?
Because I am kind of a rebel in a sense, I have always pushed the envelope and asked why? When I have been to certain meetings and certain events, versus looking at like I am the odd man out, I try to interact with others, not only to see how I can bring myself or bring others in. It is sometimes intimidating, sometimes when you don’t know certain things and wondering who I could reach to, but I think having an open mind, and being okay with receiving no’s, because some no's are good for your benefit, and some no’s are just for now. You have to learn more, get out there more.
Where there any specific Black designers you looking up to as inspiration within the industry as you entered the field?
Other than Tracy Reese, there were just the woman that I would see in the city or growing up at church that dressed to the nines, even still to this day, in their 60’s and 70’s, they took pride in themselves, and those were the women that I looked up to. That’s where I pull my style from and my brand from, that nostalgic meets edgy.
How did you begin your small business repurposing and upcycling? What are your long-term goals for your business and career?
I started it after my husband passed and began using his clothing to repurpose for my children, and it became my therapy, but it also became an outlet for others who may have a jacket, but they can’t afford to spend a lot on this jacket, and it something special to them. That’s where I come in, I can connect with them on the grief end, if it was their parents or a loved one, but I also can connect with them on the design end, in an affordable way. My business is a sustainable, inspirational, dope brand is what we call it. We encourage, we inspire. I am also a woman welder, so I want to be able to encourage Black women welders, because I was in those rooms as well, not always necessarily welcome, not always feeling comfortable, so I just want them to know they have a tribe out there. One of our brand tee shirts is pretty while gritty, so even if you are doing the dirty jobs, being pretty means you are still being kind, you are still showing up for yourself, you are still showing other young ladies that you can do the hard jobs and be pretty at the same time. We will definitely be moving into jewelry; I want this to be a complete lifestyle brand. For the women that do the things I do from fashion to costuming to welding, you have a home here.
Where do you gather inspiration for your designs?
I get inspo from the stories, from my story, I get it from the times that I could not afford or get the things that I wanted where now, even if I can’t afford it, I can make those things. I get it from the women who tells me at 40 you can’t start over, which I did. I get the inspiration from the pioneers before me, but they are still reaching back like the Tracy Reese’s of the world. Of course, I would be remised if I didn’t mention Dolce & Gabbana, they are one of those classic brands that are still innovative, like Alexander McQueen, those are those brands that when you see it, you will see the stuff from years ago till now, they are timeless, I always want my pieces to be timeless.
What advice do you have for young designers aspiring to enter the industry?
Never give up. Be comfortable with thinking outside of the box. If it’s a no, create your own lane.
What is one thing you hope changes for the future of the industry?
I pray that all are considered. I really believe to be a creative is a God-given talent. If you are a creative in any way, I hope that people are more open-minded, I hope that people are more curious, I hope that people are respectful and grateful for others sharing and voicing their creativity in the way that they do.