Mara Hoffman didn’t set out to start a brand. As an artist who began designing clothes in a New York studio apartment, Hoffman just loved to create. And what she created was an innovative, celebratory way of dressing through color, shape, and sustainable principles. “I don’t even know if it was such a conscious thing that I was starting a brand. Even the language of brand didn’t even come into our lexicon until 10 years into it, [in] 2010,” Hoffman, who founded her namesake label in 2000 after graduating from Parsons School of Design, told POPSUGAR. “Before that I was a designer in my studio apartment. It started with me making one-of-a-kind handmade pieces in my apartment when I graduated from school. I was hand dyeing, boutiquing: it was probably more of an art experiment than a clothing brand really.”
But after some time, the former dancer turned her at-home-studio projects into a flourishing clothing line, sold in luxe retailers like Neiman Marcus and Net-a-Porter as well as the designer’s SoHo, New York storefront. And she quickly grew a celebrity fan base, including stars like Priyanka Chopra, Chrissy Teigen, Katy Perry, and Beanie Feldstein.
“I don’t know if people are going to lose interest in this [sustainability] topic as they see towns being washed away or burned down right now. It’s starting to come into people’s own homes and backyards, and their experience of life is transforming.”
While the designer is no stranger to changes and challenges of the fashion industry, Hoffman explained that her interest in creating sustainable garments came to the forefront nearly a decade into establishing the brand. She credits her sustainable style journey to the change in times, change in conversations, and a stronger sense of awareness. “Back in the first 12 years of this experiment, that language wasn’t there. In the early 2000s, the word sustainability did not exist in these walls of fashion. It wasn’t a conversation, it wasn’t on our radar, it wasn’t our pain point. We were really still so much in the space of egoic design. Create what you love, that’s it. There isn’t this responsibility piece to it,” she explained.
But in 2015, Hoffman decided to make what she refers to as “the big transformation.” “It was following a couple of years, basically coming to into stronger awareness. The [sustainable] language was very quietly and lightly slipping into the fashion space, but it definitely wasn’t a popular conversation,” she said. “I think that I would try and push it away a little bit until it just became so loud and so much yuck around it that I was forced, on an internal and spiritual level, to change.”
Eight years later, not only is Hoffman’s brand a household name, but the designer takes pride in having made an impactful change through the use of sustainable materials, processes, and production to extend the life cycle of a garment — ultimately, to help improve the environment around us. And she hopes other designers will follow suit and continue to make sustainability a priority, especially considering how climate change is impacting our day-to-day lives. “I don’t know if people are going to lose interest in this [sustainability] topic as they see towns being washed away or burnt down right now,” she said. “It’s starting to come into people’s own homes and backyards, and their experience of life is transforming. I can’t imagine it being that they’re going to not feel a deeper correlation to the experience. It’s just speeding up right now. We thought it was going to be pushed off, and it’s the next generation’s experience, but it’s our experience.”
Below, read more about Hoffman’s journey with her namesake line and what she believes the future of sustainable fashion holds.