Mara Hoffman is celebrated for her womenswear, punctuating what could be a gloomy day with bright colors and bold patterns. Those making personal changes to combat climate change also regard her for her brand’s efforts in the arena of sustainable fashion—a powerful push of hers that boils down to buying less and wearing more.
Social distanced from afar, Hoffman spoke with Whitewall about how she’s doing today, why the brand’s sustainability efforts are necessities, and which dress is the Mara Hoffman dress.
WHITEWALL: Mara, how are you doing amid the COVID-19 outbreak?
MARA HOFFMAN: We are adapting and navigating the best we can. The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority right now. We are working from home as a company, which has its challenges, but also is inspiring when it comes to true teamwork. We are figuring out the new normal one day at a time while the world continues to change rapidly day-by-day.
WW: Where are you finding inspiration during this difficult time?
MH: I am finding inspiration in the unknown and in the potential to rethink systems right now. Knowing that things aren’t going to be the same ever is an opportunity to look into a brand like ours and see the changes we’re going to make.
WW: Tell us a bit about your relationship with art. Is today’s creativity impacting you or the brand in a new way?
MH: Being tapped in as a creative, it’s impossible not to be informed by the collective consciousness with all of the creativity out there. The unknown zone we are in right now can be a fertile space for an artist to communicate. In times like this, society looks to artists and creatives to help them navigate.
WW: The Mara Hoffman brand is helping provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about this?
MH: We made a donation to Food Bank NYC, a nonprofit whose mission is to end food poverty in all five boroughs. During this time, we are continuing to use our platform to promote local non-profits, ArtStart, Custom Collaborative, and the Women’s Prison Association.
WW: Tell us a bit about the Mara Hoffman woman—quarantined or not.
MH: There is no one Mara Hoffman woman, but rather a mindset. We like to think that our clothes help her to express herself outwardly. She cares about the planet and is committed to making conscious choices around the way that she dresses and exists all around.
WW: Your commitment to sustainability is deeply rooted in your brand. Can you tell us a bit about this, and where it began?
MH: Our shift towards sustainability came from a place of necessity. When I started to learn about the fashion industry’s harmful impact on the environment and society, I realized that I wasn’t willing to move the company forward in this way any longer. That left us with two options: to close shop or completely change our methods. We aim to design and manufacture our clothes with greater care, reduce our impact, and generate awareness while creating beauty and instilling joy in others.
WW: Tell us a bit about the brand’s partnership with The Renewal Workshop.
MH: As a company, we are committed to promoting garment longevity and this partnership is a step in a long journey towards circularity. The Renewal Workshop cleans and repairs any Mara Hoffman garments that are no longer wanted or are damaged, which we are then able to resale on their website or at various events around the country. This helps ensure pieces have a second (or third or fourth) life and keeps product out of landfills.
WW: Tell us a bit about your dedication to transparency and sustainability when it comes to sourcing materials.
MH: We work hard to understand our supply chain from fiber to finish. For us, this means building strong relationships with our suppliers and being very upfront with our requirements of full transparency through the chain. When choosing materials, we have a strict list of preferred fibers that we work in which helps inform our fabric decisions.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about your personal style?
MH: I’m a uniform dresser. I rotate between around four pairs of pants, mostly vintage Levi’s, and white button-down shirts on top. I’m all about wearing more and buying less. That philosophy is present in the way I design pieces and how we as a brand talk about taking care of your garments so that they will last for years to come.
WW: What’s one Mara Hoffman piece that exemplifies the DNA of its brand?
MH: The Lelia Dress. This dress is celebratory and joyous, although there are so many other aspects to the brand like utilitarianism, there is something about this dress that links that past, present and future through color and celebration.