It’s the newest edition of Jews of Philly Fashion, introducing you to the Chosen few who dress our city. They might mix wool and linen, but they’ve got some strong opinions on mixing stripes with florals. In this space, we’ll talk to designers, sellers, buyers, influencers, models and more. This week, we spoke to Gabrielle Mandel.
Fashion industry success stories don’t typically feature the protagonist moving away from New York, back home to her parents, as an important step forward. But Gabrielle Mandel isn’t afraid to buck a trend, in her career or in her designs.
“It’s really exciting to get to create every day,” she said.
Mandel, 33, has worked on and off for J. Crew, Sears and Kmart, and now designs fabrics for Anthropologie and the Urban Outfitters brand. At the same time, she designs art, home goods and accessories for her own brand, Supra Endura, which also serves as a home for her podcast, “Supra Endura: Creative Conversations.”
Growing up in Elkins Park, Mandel attended the now-defunct suburban campus of Congregation Rodeph Shalom. From a young age, clothing design appealed to her, though not as much as the idea of becoming a movie director. It was the influence of her grandmother Gilda — nicknamed “The Logan Barbie” — that helped steer her toward fashion design, and Mandel graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 ready to enter that world. Off to New York City she went.
In the fashion capital of the country, there was no shortage of design work for Mandel. She began thinking about what starting her own brand would look like and, in 2013, Supra Endura was born, named for a type of photographic paper that Mandel had made frequent use of in high school.
As Mandel became more serious about expanding Supra Endura, it became apparent that doing so could be much easier back in Philadelphia; in 2014, with an acceptance from the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator in hand, Mandel returned to her hometown.
While she learned more about the business side of the industry in that program, Mandel was thinking about what she really wanted Supra Endura to be. From the beginning, she’d made her designs with an eye toward social consciousness; early products sent a percentage of their profit to Ocean Conservancy, and more recent projects have raised money for Philabundance and The Wistar Institute. She’s designed original, free-to-download posters in support of Black Lives Matter and get-out-the-vote efforts as well.
For Mandel, the overlap between her life as a designer and her life as a Jew is obvious. Giving back through her work, she said, is her connection to Jewish values, but more than that, she wants to be unabashedly Jewish in her public-facing life.
Mandel spoke about “Love Is Blind,” the Delia’s catalog of the ’90s and more.
What’s the last book you read?
I am currently reading Jia Tolentino’s “Trick Mirror,” and love it.
What clothing trend would you like to see make a comeback?
Anything that the Delia’s catalog did in the ’90s.
What’s something you can’t believe you used to wear?
“Going-out tops” that had rhinestones on them. My style is much more casual and laid-back now.
What’s your go-to quarantine meal?
I love making homemade pizza.
What’s the worst thing you’ve watched in quarantine?
Probably “Love Is Blind.”
What item of clothing should more people be wearing?
Whatever makes them feel amazing.
What person’s style do you admire?
My friend Pia Panaligan, who is a stylist and creative being at-large in Philadelphia. She has amazing style. She mixes vintage and independent brands and she always puts together the best outfits.
Best neighborhood in Philadelphia?
I live in Southwest Philly and I love it! I am a 15-minute walk to Clark Park, and I love the greenery and living in a very diverse place.
What talent would you most like to have?
To be able to sing really well.