Sustainable Fashion: An Interview with Mara Hoffman
We sit down with designer and creative director, Mara Hoffman, to discuss the challenges of sustainability in business, advances in the fashion industry and some of NYC’s hidden gems. Mara has done an incredible job of pivoting her entire business to now be a leader in the ethical space. Meet the woman behind this incredible line.
Over the last few years you have been developing a bit more of an eco-conscious approach to the Mara Hoffman line. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind that?
My inspiration came from understanding the state of the world that we’re in and realizing that I needed to start doing what I do in a way that is the least harmful to the planet and all of its inhabitants.
In a previous interview with Vogue you said that having a child really drove you towards wanting to implement more sustainable changes within your line, how so?
Having a child and knowing that he was going to have to take on what I was leaving behind hit home for me. It was a huge wake up call and it’s part of what pushed me to start making the real changes. It eventually got to a breaking point where I went to visit my production director, who was on maternity leave at the time, and told her that we needed to start the shift or close shop.
Has it been difficult making this switch to sustainable production?
Absolutely it’s been difficult, it’s still a constant journey and it always will be, but it’s worth it. It means something to be able to look at my collection and feel good about it on a personal level. Within two years we made, and are still making, these massive shifts, which means that it’s not perfect and there’s still so much work to be done.
Have you seen your peers following a similar path? Do you think the fashion industry as a whole are making more strides towards ethics and sustainability?
I absolutely think that the industry is gravitating towards ethics and sustainability. It’s been in the works for quite some time, and we are a small and fairly new part of it. I feel that we are all on the same path in a way, inspired by one another, following one another. Sustainability spans across so many different parts of a business, so you could be an expert in one aspect and still learning. Those of us on this path, we all want better, we all want more companies to be sustainable, we all want more companies to be more ethical in their policies, and I hope that in the same way we were inspired, we can inspire others to make some change.
What are you most proud of in your line in these last two years?
I am most proud of the shift in our approach. The shift in how we made our clothing, to how we sold it, to how it looks. With better and more ethical fabrications came even more beautiful clothes. We’ve really embraced the concept of buying less and wearing more, turning every piece in your closet into a key piece that you wear over and over and over again, more like uniform dressing, which makes the collection that much more wearable, that much less fleeting.
How does the company culture at Mara Hoffman embrace your new stance?
On a sustainability level, we have monthly action plan meetings to talk over how much energy we use in the office, our recycling initiatives, any workshops we can do or films we can watch to learn more about how we work and how we can work better. On a messaging level, my company is 29 women out of 30 employees, so I spend a lot of time trying to understand how I can better support women in the world.
Any charities you are involved in and why are they close to your heart?
Art Start is one that we’ve been working with for a while that holds a special spot in my heart. In the same way that I try to integrate the beauty of creating with my passion for a greater global and social awareness, Art Start works with at-risk youth through art, enabling them in a way that allows enough space for expression and enough space to be a person.
Finally, what does sustainability mean to you?
To me sustainability is a constant work in progress; it’s consistently taking steps in the right direction whether that’s trying to use one less AC unit in the office or breaking down and rebuilding your production line. Ultimately, it is about being as harm-free as possible.
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