Mara Hoffman launched her namesake brand in 2000, with ready-to-wear, right after graduating Parsons School of Design and Central Saint Martins. Today, Hoffman has expanded the brand into bridal, swimwear, kids, and accessories all recognized for their bright colors and bold, signature prints. She draws inspiration from her travels, nature, and urban lifestyle, all with a hint of fantasy. Hoffman’s ethos is to design clothing for all women by successfully blending the bohemian aesthetic for the modern, working woman.
It is such a bold move to start your own brand after studying at Parsons The New School for Design and Central Saint Martin’s College. Did you have a long-term plan at that time or were you just going for it?
I didn’t have a set plan, I just knew that I loved making clothes and the idea of working for myself was very appealing. I had really great luck in the very beginning that allowed for me to start my business so early on.
Your design and brand vision are so strong and consistent while still evolving. How do you maintain this?
I feel that I am constantly challenging my vision and one of my fears is not evolving so I am always hyper aware of what I am putting out. I have a very clear vision of my world and how I like it to look, that part has always just been part of me. Of course as the brand has grown it has given me more confidence to push deeper into the vision and trust it.
Your website is one awesome kaleidoscope of colors. How do you manage to merge so many images so brilliantly?
I’m not sure that there is a formula for that; it is just a personal taste of what looks good next to what. I am happy other people resonate with it too!
You were obviously a pioneer in designing extraordinary prints. Now that the fashion world has caught up to you, how do you keep standing out from the crowd?
I guess it’s about always moving forward and never getting too comfy where you are.
How do you bridge the gap between being too bohemian and appealing to the modern woman living and working in New York City?
I think that my brand appeals to a certain type of woman who craves color and originality. I am both a bohemian and a New Yorker and find an ease in marrying the two. I would say a lot of my NYC girls are after work and weekend MH warriors!
Your designs have such exotic influences. Do you travel a lot? What are some of your favorite destinations?
I try to travel as much as possible. It has definitely gotten tougher since I had my son, 3 years ago, but I try to bring him with me as much as possible. There’s still so much traveling I would love to be doing. I still haven’t been to Africa, that’s a big one because it has been so inspiring to me, design wise, and I know I would connect deeply.
How do you start designing each collection?
First with the over all inspiration/narrative and then straight into the prints because they have the longest lead times.
Do you approach ready-to-wear and swim differently? Do the collections influence one another?
I’d say the approach is the same in the beginning as far as coming up with an inspiration but there is a bit more freedom when it comes to swim. The swim collection is designed to travel with my customers to warm happy places where they will be in bathing suits for the majority of the day. The ready-to-wear needs to be approached with more thought as to wearing the pieces in their “real” life (to work, wearing a bra, the temperature outside that’s not necessarily 90 degrees, etc.). The two collections definitely influence each other, I am always pulling inspiration from one to give to the other.
Your show is a highlight of Miami Fashion Week. Can you tell us a bit of what to expect this coming season?
COLOR, FUN, SEXINESS, SPIRIT!!
You’ve come such a long way since launching your company in 2000. What are your 3 top business mantras?
FOCUS. EVOLVE. And build the best team possible.
Did you ever imagine your brand to grow to include shoes, accessories, and kids?
I never thought it wouldn’t. It all seems to be going in an organic evolution and we try to only expand into categories that truly make sense with the brand.
Are you a bikini or maillot girl at the beach?
I used to be only bikini but now I love maillots and high-waisted bikinis. But that’s not to say you won’t catch me in a teeny weeny bikini, it just depends where I am!