Marshall Columbia’s Design Ethos is All About the Purest Form of Fun

Since launching his brand during the pandemic, the designer has quickly scaled the ranks, becoming a favorite of Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and Miley Cyrus.

Marshall Columbia may have just started his fashion line during the pandemic, but in that short period of time, his pieces have already been worn by Dua Lipa, Kali Uchis, Megan Thee Stallion, Miley Cyrus, and Hunter Schafer, just to name a few. Well-known for his incredibly puffy, neon-hued plush bags with delicate beadwork, the brand is defined by organic cut-outs, cool pops of color, and mesmerizing details that make you look twice, maybe even three times—even amid the current crowded, maximalist fashion on your social media feed.

Earlier this year, Marshall Columbia also launched his first capsule collection on SSENSE, marked by an explosion of cascading heart prints, cropped puffy vests and waves of bodycon tops with signature beadwork. “This last collection was really inspired by a lot of the cartoon superheroes I used to love,” Columbia tells W. “When I was growing up, it was all about Totally Spies! and The Powerpuff Girls.”

Up next, the designer is working on a menswear collection due to release in March 2022. “I’ve taken this opportunity to design for myself in a way,” he says. “I’ve always just been designing for other people and I don’t wear any of my clothes that I designed.” According to Marshall, the new capsule will more closely mirror his own casual style, with a couple unisex pieces and women’s pieces as well. As Columbia works on his upcoming collection, we spoke with the designer about his background as a costume designer and the signature plush bag that shot him to notoriety.

You started your line during the pandemic. What has it been like to rise so quickly, with celebrities wearing head-to-toe looks of your designs on red carpets?

It’s been a whirlwind, because I don’t come from the fashion industry. I was in costume design. So just figuring out how to source things and manufacturing—all the business stuff—was really crazy. I had to figure it out fast. But outside of that, it’s been so fun having the opportunity to play and make clothes that people find joy in wearing.

Looks from Marshall Columbia’s capsule collection.


How did being in costume design influence your way of working?

Bright colors have always resonated with me. I loved to dress up as a kid; I was in theater, and when I moved to New York, I was in school and working for this designer who did drag. We made clothes for drag queens on Rupaul’s Drag Race. I learned a lot about myself and my design point of view during that time.

You’ve previously said that you’re inspired by arts and crafts. Can you elaborate on that?

I always try and point it back to some point in my early childhood, because I love to create the sense of nostalgia. I used to love arts and crafts—that’s all I would do when I was a kid. I lost that for a while. By starting my brand, I learned a lot about comfort and going back to that space.

What was the inspiration behind the puffy bag?

I just was bored and I wanted to have a craft moment. I started messing around with making a plush purse, and then I had some beads around. I was like, We need to put these on it. It wasn’t anything for a while. And then the pandemic happened and I didn’t have a job. I started selling them on Depop and it went from there. After that, Miley Cyrus wore one of my outfits, the beaded suit, which I actually made in school. It just kind of started spiraling and people began reaching out.

Have you always wanted your own fashion brand?

Ever since I was in school, I realized this was something I was interested in. But before college, I wasn’t really into it—I went to school for music for a bit, and then I got really burnt out and I was like, What do I do? All of a sudden, I became so obsessed with fashion and different designers. So I went to fashion school.

What is your go-to outfit on an everyday basis?

I used to dress pretty loud, with bright colors. But obviously moving into this time of having my own brand, I feel like my outfit has gotten so muted—baggy pants and hoodies, which I’m not mad about. I love that with a little purse.

What’s the last thing you purchased?

I got these really cute hand-painted pants by Juliet Johnstone—she just got into SSENSE and we started our brands at the same time. So it’s been cool to both grow so much.

Looks from Marshall Columbia’s capsule collection. Eyewear by TDKent x Marshall Columbia.


What’s the best fashion advice you ever received?

My best advice from a design teacher who said every detail counts. You can design pants, but they can be different, because every stitch counts. And that is something I always think about when designing. I don’t just want to make a simple t-shirt. I have to look at every single angle.

What’s one item you always carry with you?

My blue and yellow crocheted purse. I always have it. I think it was originally a beach bag, but it’s become a staple for me. A friend was moving and they didn’t have enough space for it, so they gave it to me. I carry it everywhere.

What did you dress like as a teenager?

I dressed really similar to how I’ve been dressing in the last year. I grew up in Colorado and there were not a lot of fashion influences there—everyone’s about to go on a hike or do yoga. I just wore hoodies and baggy pants. I think the big difference is that now, I always have a little purse and I feel like that makes my look.

Do you have a favorite fashion designer?

I was really inspired by Alexander McQueen, as cliché as that sounds just because there's a story there with everything. I think that’s the hardest part for me, to make sure my story is being portrayed even with a simple garment. Any designer who can do that is really talented.

Looks from Marshall Columbia’s capsule collection. Eyewear by TDKent x Marshall Columbia; rings by Blobb x Marshall Columbia.


What about a style icon?

I actually grew up in a very conservative house and I feel like I missed the early 2000s, because I couldn’t listen to most music or watch a lot of TV. I had this moment in high school when I was coming out and going away from all that. I re-explored the early 2000s. So I love Paris Hilton and Dennis Rodman.

Is there one person today that you would love to see wearing your pieces?

I really want Blackpink to wear my pieces in a music video or something. That would be so fun for them—and me.