By Diane Small
New York based luxury fashion designer Mara Hoffman has long been known for her colourful swimwear and ready-to-wear collections. Her bold use of geometric patterns, primary colours and feminine details have made her a favourite with vacationers everywhere from the Hamptons and Portofino to Rio and Ibiza.
But something recently happened to Ms Hoffman that changed her life – and her work – forever.
She had long wanted to greenify her brand, but kept putting it off – until she gave birth to a son. After that, she just knew she had to take the leap to sustainability. As she told Vogue in an interview:
“…it was like, ‘Wait. This goes far beyond me.’ Here I am as a manufacturer and I’m making things [every season], but my son and his generation are the ones who will have to deal with all this stuff. We’ve been making things too rapidly, and there’s too much of it. There’s this daunting feeling that you can’t change [an industry] that’s been in motion for so long, but I couldn’t keep showing up if we weren’t going to make some changes.”
We’ve heard how the profundity of bringing a new life into the world has changed powerful women’s approach to work before; Kim D’Amato of PRITI NYC and Andrea Sands of Laguna Herbals, amongst other women, were motivated to make their brands greener and cleaner so that their children’s generation would have a healthier future. Mara Hoffman has long brought social politics to her work: she’s a major feminist, supports the arts, and champions positivity for all body sizes, so shifting into sustainable fashion after having a baby seemed like a natural next move.
Gradually, she began to source low-waste and recycled fabrics, including Tencel which she chose to replace silk, making her brand fully vegan friendly. She’s also replaced jersey fabric with a new material called Refibra, made from cotton scrap remainders from woodcutting operations. To save the huge amount of water denim demands, she’s chosen to use a similar fabric created from a hemp and organic-cotton blend. This gives her jeans a worn, vintage look, and it means that the wearer’s skin won’t be absorbing the toxins that plague regular cotton.
But it wasn’t enough for Hoffman to make her collections eco-friendly; she wanted to make them socially responsible, too. She decided to work with Nest, a non-profit that works to support the livelihoods of a network of artisans around the world. The Kering Foundation, Maiyet, The Elder Statesman, and Nicholas K are also members of Nest, and all source their delicate, handmade embroidery, beading and sewing from the group.
“I think people forget that sustainability includes human impact. Nest helped open our eyes to the fact that even beyond the regulated four-walled factory, there are millions of people in the fashion industry’s supply chain who work from home [or in a small workshop] and deserve our support,” says Hoffman.
Hoffman’s dedication to making gradual, positive changes is a great example of how brands can always take control to create more sustainable designs (are you listening, Vivienne Westwood?). There can be little doubt that as consumer awareness increases, responsible production is just as important as beautiful design.
Shop her collections here.