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.
What is the mission of your new collection M2057?
I want to give women affordable clothes that address four key elements: price, design integrity, fit and fabric. I looked at countless brands and companies, and while I was able to find $250 dresses here and there, there wasn’t much available that offered all the fundamentals I required, while acknowledging women’s real body types. Women want highly functional pieces at aspirational prices.
What are the pieces and the price range of the collection?
Seven dresses, two jackets, a shrug and a wrap, and two scarf styles, priced from $75 to $250. The dresses can be styled in a number of ways, so they can transition from casual to formal. Contemporary design elements include raw hems, angular lines and draping. M2057 has an architectural energy. It’s where the industrial meets the elegant.
What is the fabric?
We are working with a mill known for its jersey. We have a ‘liquid’ jersey with a beautiful weave that literally skims the body and a ‘form’ jersey that has a self-lining and fits like a second skin. People don’t like clingy jersey. You can thrown the pieces in the washing machine and hang them to drive.
The fabric, from Italy, is a nylon blend with great technical function. Everyone that touches it says it feels like silk. I wore the pieces all though the summer, when I was developing them, and they were comfortable, even in warm weather. Everything is made in the United States.
Why did you decide to launch the collection on Kickstarter and how does it work, for those of us who have never used it?
You pre-order what you want, before October 14th, and you’ll receive the piece in March. After the campaign, prices will rise. A $250 dress will become $270, for example. You don’t even have to order anything. You can pledge a dollar. Whether you buy something or make a small pledge, you are helping to create this company. You are listed on my website as a backer. The process also gives me direct access to my future customers.
We only have until October 14th. If we don’t get $250,000, we get nothing.
KickStarter makes it easy for people who aren’t necessarily tech savvy. You click on the bundle that you want, but you don’t need to decide right away what dress or jacket, what color or what size to order. You won’t be charged anything until the campaign is over. When we reach our goal, you’ll get an email from Amazon saying your card has been charged.
Then you’ll get a survey from us asking exactly what you want in terms of size, style and color. We’ll also forward you a measurement chart. We’ll have an exchange policy, too.
How do we know what size to order and which style will be right for you?
In the world of real women, we all have different body types. The look book on bottom right corner of Kickstarter has icons for different body types, so you’ll know dress will look best on you. Here’s another tip: Always go for your largest measurement whenever you order on line and then you can alter the piece accordingly.
Will you also sell to retailers?
Yes, we’ll sell to retailers next season and we’ll have an ecommerce site, too. We’re looking at large department stores as well as specialty stores. We’ll have a nice blend. The experience is different when you’re shopping in a department store or a boutique. We also want to honor the retailers where we’re not saturating the community.
Will you keep your collection edited or will you grow it?
The ways we live and shop have changed. Back in the day women would buy their entire wardrobes for the season. That’s not true any more. Now it’s ‘Oh, I need a dress for next weekend,’ so you go shopping. Or ‘I need a few more dresses for work’ so you go shopping. I plan to launch small capsule collections on an ongoing basis. So we’ll introduce pieces in May, for example, that women will want to wear in June.
The liquid and form jerseys will be the core of M2057, because of their technical function, and then we’ll add other fabrics to support them. We’re working on laser- cut white cotton shirting. We’ll be expanding into slacks and skirts, the core items women want in their wardrobes.
Which are the most popular styles now?
The Sophia, The Franca, The Jesse and The Isabella are running neck and neck. The styles are ageless and very mindful of all body types.
Have to ask this. What does the name M2057 mean?
2057 is the year I turn 100. My mom’s 96, so I’m banking on it.