February 11, 2015

Fashion design for chic, modern women: Maria Pinto of M2057

Part of Maria Pinto’s M2057 collection: Reefer Coat (Concrete Gray) paired with Racer Top (Acid Yellow) and Cigarette Pants (Concrete Gray)

Stemming from fashion designer Maria Pinto’s appearance at the 37th CreativeMornings/Chicago gathering held in January 2015 (read my write-up), here she extends her concise takes on pursuing and constructing her vision of “chic, modern fashion for chic, modern women.”

On being a fashion designer:

How did you arrive at being a fashion designer?
I have been creating art and designing clothes since I was thirteen. So I think it is just in my DNA!

What were essential activities/steps taken to establish 
your craft as a fashion designer?
I am not sure there is a formula to starting a creative business. My first company was born in 1991. I like to refer to it as a “Tipping Point” as Malcolm Gladwell would put it. I launched with scarves and wraps, right at the moment when the Pashmina craze hit. Thus, this trend created a new interest/desire for the kind of designs I was creating.

In making a Collection, what do you do, 
and how much time does it take to realize it?
Typically, I start a collection with researching an inspiration that will drive the mood of the season. From the starting point of inspiration to fabric sourcing to development to production to finally delivery, the process consumes six months.

Dress Forms in classroom at Fashion Institute of Technology. Source: Lill at Flickr

In your fashion-design toolkit, what primary tools do you use?
The Dress Form is the most important tool!

In your talk at the 37th gathering of CreativeMornings/Chicago, 
you “flipped the script” on snobbery—that it’s an ingredient 
to achieve success. Can you say more?
Perhaps “snob” is not the best word—what I mean is the unwillingness to compromise, to develop your eye, and to believe in what you see as ugly or beautiful.

Considering that CreativeMornings’ global theme for 
January 2015 was “Ugly”, fashion designer Coco Chanel said, 
“Nothing is ugly as long as it is alive.” What do you strive 
for in your clothes that speaks to “alive”?
“Alive” is a perfect word! What I see, as alive, in a design is this inherent, timeless beauty. It breaths!

Maria Pinto (center with eyewear) sitting with models wearing M2057 designs at M2057’s Pop Up Shop held at Haute Living

Congratulations on a successful Kickstarter campaign 
to launch your new collection M2057! Why did you 
go with KickstarterAnd what were those critical things 
you did to reach your funding goal?
I chose Kickstarter, because out of all the project-funding platforms, it is the most branded. That said, at the time I did the campaign, September 2013, my audience had heard of Kickstarter, but had no idea what it really was. So we had to do event/trunk shows to walk them through exactly what they were signing up for.

What is your definition of growth, as it relates to business?
From a creative point of view, evolving and challenging yourself to constantly reach new levels. From a financial point of view, scaling and profits.

Who and/or what keep(s) you going as a fashion designer? 
I live for designing beautiful things.

On creativity, design, working:

At your CreativeMornings/Chicago talk, you also highlighted 
the seeking of art and experiencing it. Awesome that you 
returned to painting. “Go and see some art” is consistent 
advice. How do you go about making art a regular influence?
I keep countless journals, tear sheets, inspiration boards. I am terrible when it comes to books; I have a collection of over 600 books, and that does not include novels, etc. Books on culture, art, fashion history, photography, dinosaurs, shells, fish, botany…

Painting “Wandering Roots” by Maria Pinto

How does your work environment nurture 
and support your ability to create?
I have a very isolated creative space. For me, the door needs to be closed—to shut off all of the pragmatic business matters that are a significant part of the business process, but can intrude on creative time.

How do you handle disagreements while you’re working?
I don’t have any, LOL! I try to listen, I try to learn, I try to avoid them!

What is your definition of bad design?
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. That said, bad design often stems from the lack of editing and understanding why any part is essential or extraneous.

If a person approached you with: “I want to be 
fashion designer. How do I become one?”, what’s your response?
Go to the best school, push yourself as hard as possible—the competition is fierce.

Have to ask: If you watched “The Devil Wears Prada”
what parts of it ring true for you, being a participant 
in the fashion world?
The drama, the ugliness. All of which I try to avoid.

How does the city of Chicago, Illinois, contribute to your work?
Chicago has a nurturing quality.

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Majority of images courtesy of Autumn Rentsch of M2057.

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Directly related: Don’t be shy at making a body of work: Fashion Designer Maria Pinto at 37th CreativeMornings in ChicagoJessica Caldwell, of Machine, on fashion design for modern badass women

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Read more from Design Feast Series of Interviews
with people who love making things.

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