Kickstarting Your Wardrobe

First Lady Michelle Obama loved wearing Maria Pinto clothes long before she stepped into a stunning purple Maria sheath for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. In an instant, the Chicago-based FOF designer became an international sensation. Maria’s newest collection, M2057, is being launched on the crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter, and is designed to appeal to real women of all body types. Women like you and I.

FOF talked to Maria about what she’s been up to since the heady days of 2008 and the genesis of her new collection.

Why did you close your previous design and retail business, what have you been doing since then and what prompted you to take this route with the design of a new collection?

The economic situation in 2008 and 2009 led up to closing my business in January 2010. I was then contracted to be the creative director of Chicago retailer Mark Shale, where I was charged with rebalancing and resuscitating the brand. I gave it a year, and I was really excited about what I was able to do, but I subsequently felt that I needed to move forward in my process.

During this time, I continued to create art, painting and drawing. I was co-curator of an exhibit at the Field Museum, which ran from last September to this September. It was an amazing experience. All these endeavors have built up to where I am today. I have to design. I love designing. I recognized the opportunity to create a clothing line that’s the nexus of form and function.


{Money} Big dream, small budget? That’s okay.

Meet 3 FOFs who have used a clever online tool to raise thousands of dollars and fund their dreams.

How it works: Kickstarter is a website where individuals can raise money based on the crowd-funding model. Instead of taking an idea to angel investors or venture capital firms, Kickstarter members share their dream projects with the general public for funding. A fundraising campaign can last up to 60 days, and a “backer” can opt to pledge anywhere from $1 to $10,000. The money is not collected unless the goal is met by campaign’s deadline.


FOF Jane Jensen, Computer Game Designer

Kickstarter project: Moebius, the first adventure computer and tablet game from Jane’s new studio, Pinkerton Road.
Goal: $300,000
Funds pledged so far: $193,824 (at the time this article was published)
Days left of her campaign: 30

Moebius Concept Image

FOF Jane Jensen, a veteran computer game designer, is best known for her adventure game, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, published in 1993 by Sierra On-Line. The game was named “Adventure Game of the Year” by Computer Gaming World magazine and was a huge commercial success. Jane went on to publish two more games in the Gabriel Knight series. Then, doom struck–literally and figuratively. “Doom, “a first-person “shooter” game, was also released in 1993 and “basically the whole industry moved in that direction and everyone said, ‘adventure games are dead,’” says Jane. “Sierra On-Line shut down their line dedicated to this genre.”

Jane has spent the last ten years working on “hidden object” games. “It hasn’t been super satisfying.” says Jane. “It’s been my dream to get back into adventure games.” This past year she took a first step when she opened her own Pennsylvania-based adventure game studio, Pinkerton Road.

Jane’s farm, where Pinkerton Road, her new adventure game studio, is located.

“I reached a point in my life where I decided I didn’t want someone else telling me what I should be doing,” says Jane. “I have fifteen years left to make an impact in this industry.” To fund production of her studio’s first game, Jane launched a Kickstarter campaign on April 5. In just 13 days, backers have pledged $193,814. (Jane says the majority of them are strangers). Jane’s project has been promoted as a “Project of the Day” in a Kickstarter e-mail, which she says has been instrumental to her success. She’s also worked very actively to keep the momentum up by answering hundreds of e-mails each day from backers and posting new video updates. “It’s practically a full-time job,” says Jane. She has thirty days left to raise a total of $300,000. Follow her project’s progress or pledge a donation, here.


FOF Donna Guthrie, Documentarian
Kickstarter project: The Wedding Gown Project
Goal: $11,500–met on April 17, 2012!

A still from “The Wedding Gown Project.”

FOF Donna Guthrie devoted her career to short films and documentaries. She co-founded both the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival and The Six Women Playwriting Festival; and she founded Meet Me at the Corner, video field trips for kids. However, she has never produced a documentary of her own or fulfilled her lifelong dream to enter a film festival.

Last year she set out to make her own film by traveling around the country and interviewing women about the stories behind their wedding gowns. “I wanted to find some universal conversation women can have. Every woman has a story about her wedding dress,” says Donna.

Donna had enough money to film the interviews and produce a Kickstarter trailer but still needed money to produce the documentary. She had known about Kickstarter and even backed about ten Kickstarter projects, including an umbrella company and a movie about monopoly. “If I think it’s a good idea I’ll put $10 towards it just for their darn creativity,” she says. “I like the idea of giving a hand up instead of a hand out.” Last month, Donna launched her own Kickstarter page to raise $11,500 for production of her film. “I wrote a letter to friends and they passed it along; sent out an e-mail; blogged about it; my kids posted about it on their Facebook…It was a challenge,” she says. The hard work paid off–on Wednesday, April 17, she met her goal. A combination of “friends and strangers” pledged $11,540 ($40 over what she had requested). Now, it’s off to the editing room for Donna.

Find out more about the Wedding Gown Project, here.


FOF Anna Donahue, sculpture artist
Kickstarter project: “Face Me” kinetic sculpture
Goal: $2,500–met on September 14, 2011!

Anna’s “Face Me” kinetic sculpture.

FOF Anna Donahue is a Michigan-based interior designer who is passionate about sculpting. Each year, for the past three years, she has entered ArtPrize, an art contest in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a grand prize of $200,000.

In early 2011, Anna submitted an idea for a 6-foot-tall sculpture made from salvaged metal that moves upon human touch. The sculpture was meant to represent the loss of physical human interaction with modern technology. ArtPrize accepted her entry, at which point Anna realized she needed to raise money in order to create her sculpture.

Anna at the scrap yard where she salvaged metal for her sculpture.

With less than two months until ArtPrize, Anna launched a 45-day Kickstarter campaign. In the end, her goal of $2,500 was met, with most of the donations coming from friends and friends of friends (although she estimates that 20% of the money came from strangers.)

She didn’t win ArtPrize 2011, but her sculpture sold. “That was huge,” says Anna. “The whole purpose was to get my name out there, and overall, I think I was successful.”

Find out more about Anna’s sculpture, Face Me, here.


Two more FOFabulous Kickstarter projects you should know about:

SuperHairoine children’s TV series by FOF Irene Smalls
43 days left to raise $19,950 (at the time this article was published)

Children’s book author (Jonathan and His Mommy, 1992, Little Brown and Company) and FOF, Irene Smalls is in the process of developing a children’s television series based on a “hairoine” named Rin whose hair is her superpower. “Hair is something that women agonize over,” says Irene. “I thought, let me turn this on it’s head and make hair a source of empowerment.”

Body Memories coffee table book by FOF Susan Falkman
14 days left to raise $4,516 (at the time this article was published)

A friend’s breast cancer diagnosis and eventual mastectomy inspired FOF Susan Falkman, a sculpture artist, to carve a marble breast as a gift for her friend. From there, Susan carved 28 similar marble sculptures which became a traveling exhibition. Now, she is raising the money to print a coffee table book with pictures from the show as an inspiring and healing tool for female cancer patients.