As a midwestern girl living in SoCal, Maria Stanley brings coast-to-coast history and past-to-present sensibilities into a single, cohesive collection. We chatted with Maria about where she got her start and what it means to bring inspiration from the past into wearable pieces for today.
Somewhere amidst the boxes of product she ships from the living room of her Silverlake studio, you’ll find Ms. Maria Stanley and, of course, her trusty canine sidekick, Rue. But the simplicity of her home belies the grandeur of her ascent in the fashion world.
Beyond the cult-following she’s rapidly developed, the likes of Racked, Live Fast, and most recently, Vogue, have taken notice of three-seasons-young fashion designer. Combining SoCal vibes, feminine lines, and buttery textiles, her collections deliver piece after piece of vintage-modern meets undone-casual brilliance. Much like Maria herself, they are practical and approachable and sweet, but confident and sexy. Her designs channel a dreamy, washed-out, vintage-y vibe but in an everyday, modern wearable sense that feels high fashion, yet demure.
Tell us about the creative background of your childhood.
“I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. My parents tell me they knew I was a creative before I could even talk. I would spend hours drawing and painting and had little interest for anything else. I also had my own unique sense of style at an early age and demanded to dress myself since age 2. My parents are amazing. They always encouraged me to be myself and follow my dreams. They still do.”
When did you know/determine that fashion design was something you wanted to pursue?
“I wanted to be an artist and a veterinarian when I was a little girl. When the mere thought of a sick animal made me cry—and I refused to dissect a frog (because I felt bad for the frog) in 6th-grade science class—I quickly figured out vet life wasn’t the life for me and steered to my creative side. My high school had an amazing art department that I took full advantage of. I started making my own clothes, and the pieces all came together from there. I left Minnesota two months out of high school to attend fashion school in Los Angeles and never looked back.”
What are the professional keystone moments that have gotten you to where you are today?
“Before launching my namesake collection for Spring 2016, and after working as a designer for a few years out of college, I was offered a senior designer position for a label under a corporate umbrella. The label was handed to me to develop alongside the creative director when I was only 23 years old. I had no idea what I was doing and was given a lot of creative freedom. Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes, but I also manifested brand I am incredibly proud of, still to this day. Most importantly, I learned a lot and wouldn’t have been able to start my own brand without it. It was an opportunity I will forever be grateful for.”
Tell us about inspiration from bygone eras. Where do you seek this out? What does it mean to you? How does it inform your designs?
“The thing I love and look up to most about the past is the quality and construction, the authenticity. So much thought and energy was put into every piece. I despise the wear-once-and-throw-away aspect of the fashion industry these days. I try my best to steer away from that side of the industry with every collection. I am drawn to the way people used to buy and wear clothes, I love the idea of investing in your wardrobe: pieces that are timeless, that you will love and wear forever.”
Tell us about designing for today’s consumer. How do you make things “current”? How much do you follow trend vs beating to your own drum and making things unique to you?
“I mainly follow my heart when designing. Trends can be silly, but they also can be historical because most everything comes back around. Never in my life did I see myself in mom jeans, but here I am sitting in my very own pair now. And I’m sure 50 years ago, no one saw an Edwardian-style blouse coming back, but now The Krissy Blouse, which is 1890’s Edwardian inspired, is my favorite piece in my collection. I want to rock my Krissy Blouse with my mom jeans all day, every day. I’m so lucky I get to design my dream wardrobe for a living, so I really take advantage of that. It’s been amazing watching ladies gravitate towards my favorite pieces. I do a lot of research by people watching and asking my friends what they’re dying to wear, but can’t find. I like clothes you can move in and be comfortable in. I like approachable clothing, pieces that are ornate, intricate, and timeless, but when you put them on you can’t help but dance in.”
What are you working on right now?
“I’m working on the Fall 2017 collection, it’s going to be a real beauty. I’m adding a few lounge-y intimate pieces to the mix. Which is something new for me, but I’ve always wanted to do. All very exciting!”
What’s next for Maria Stanley (later in 2017 and beyond)?
“I have a swim collaboration coming out next summer and a new fashion film in the works. Most importantly, I’m gonna keep on making pretty clothes for all the ladies!”
Learn more about Maria and shop her collections at mariastanley.com.