Monika Silva’s Gauge81 is reviving early aughts sexuality with Francophone flair

The line expresses a new vision for femininity, balancing European minimalism with Columbian vivacity

For Colombian womenswear designer Monika Silva, Gauge81 is an opportunity to express a new vision for femininity. When she grew disillusioned with her corporate gig, she made a bold decision: leave the industry and build a fashion line for a woman she knew was out there but felt wasn’t served in fashion’s rigid boxes, in which women are either sexy or corporate—and never both. Her designs are for “a modern woman,” Silva tells Document’s Senior Fashion Editor, Shawn Lakin, adding that she feels her brand would have been perfect for her late mother (“she would have stopped traffic in those mini skirts, in her time”).

Silva’s designs are marked by curve-hugging silhouettes—a balance of Dutch sartorial minimalism and bright, saturated hues, which she attributes to Colombian aesthetic sensibilities. There is a dash of early aughts nostalgia that simmers on the surface of Silva’s brand identity (The Cut called Silva “the brand Carrie Bradshaw would have been obsessed with”). Gauge81 (pronounced “go-sh eight-one”) is the amalgamation of early aughts sexuality and elegant European minimalism, married with contemporary, technical cuts that combine to create an identity as versatile as its founder.

Here Silva joins Document to discuss her departure from corporate life and her push for sustainability, and even shares a little haiku. 

Shawn Lakin: Who are your designs for?

Monika Silva: A modern woman, who leads a fast-paced life. She is bold and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is definitely a little risqué and makes a statement with her wardrobe decisions. 

Shawn: If you could see any person living or dead in your designs who would it be? 

Monika: Definitely my late mother, she would have stopped traffic in those mini skirts, in her time.

Shawn: Could you write a haiku about the brand? 

Monika: We’re Gauge81

The new contemporary

Bold Fun Minimal

Shawn: Where did the name come from? 

Monika: Gauge is an industry term that describes the weight of yarn, we decided to give it a Francophone pronunciation for a bit of flair. 81 is for luck.

Shawn: I read you switched from corporate life to follow your passion for fashion, can you talk a bit about that?

Monika: I was working in advertising and became a bit disillusioned with the direction the company was headed in, so I began exploring new directions and inevitably went down the fashion lane—there’s a history of fashion in my family going back a few generations—it was kismet in a way. However, I’m very grateful for the experience, the work ethic and tools I learned working in a more corporate environment because they have been a great foundation for starting a business.

Shawn: What advice would you give people who want to start a fashion company?

Monika: Run for the hills! No, but really—thick skin and perseverance.

Shawn: How did living in Colombia, the United States, and Amsterdam inform your design? 

Monika: There’s a very intriguing juxtaposition within all three cultures. Dutch minimalism and the people’s effortless vibe, traditional American glamour, and some Colombian fun and pops of color—these are all definitely present in the collection.

Shawn: Since the pandemic started, how has this informed your practice in terms of sustainability or the longevity of your garments? 

Monika: We have just recently implemented our ‘Gauge Goes Green’ initiative which sets stringent benchmarks that increase year over year. Our PS21 collection meets our first goal of 50% organic and sustainable-certified fabrics and yarns. Some other action points in this initiative include exploring 3D prototyping where possible, in the hope of reducing our carbon footprint by eliminating unnecessary shipping and physical sampling in the early stages, along with all the fabric waste this back-and-forth produces. We are also exploring different options to re-use or re-purpose our off-cuts. Fashion produces roughly 92 million tons of waste per year, a lot of that from off-cuts. In terms of our actual pieces, we do ascribe to a less-is-more mentality, we want our pieces to be seasonless, versatile, and top quality.