Maria Stanley left her home in Forest Lake at the age of 18 and headed to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of being a clothing designer.
These days, her eponymous line is sold by 40 retailers around the world, including the U.S., Japan, and Dubai, and Stanley and her designs have been featured in Vogue. (You can find her pieces here exclusively at Idun in St. Paul.)
Thirteen years later, she’s back in Minnesota. City Pages sat down with Stanley to talk about her work, her travels to India and Peru, what inspires her, and how she’s getting ready for her first winter back in town.
Citypages: You got your start in Los Angeles. Why did you decide to move back?
Maria Stanley: I was craving a support system. I missed my family. [My partner] Michael is a photographer, and we saw a cool creative community here. It was something that we wanted to be part of, so it made sense for the next move.
Citypages: What’s the vibe of your designs?
Stanley: I’ve always been a lover of vintage, so most of my inspiration comes from the past. I love a good ‘60s or ‘70s silhouette: a shift dress, a high-waisted pant, the juxtaposition of a maxi, Indian-style dress.
Citypages: Has living in Minnesota changed the way you create, think, and design?
Stanley: I want to make warmer clothes. That’s been the biggest change in my mindset when designing Fall ’20 versus designing Fall ’19… you’ll see more sweaters and outerwear. I’m excited to see the reaction to that. I’ve come back from a place where people wear sundresses year ‘round.
Citypages: What inspires you when you’re working on a new collection?
Stanley: I always start with color and build up the collection from there. I start with a painting; one of Michael’s pictures; a restaurant; a food. My Spring ’20 collection is inspired by a bowl of ramen. I was really inspired by the herbs and spices in the bowl, and the miso broth was so pretty to me.
Citypages: You have a commitment to sustainability, and that seems to go hand in hand with the fabrics you choose...
Stanley: My background was more fast-fashion. So when I started my own brand, [sustainability] was the only way. The fashion industry creates so much waste, so for me to avoid that in every way that I know how is important.
It always starts with the fabrics; choosing natural fabrics that are biodegradable. It’s important to me to make clothes that are designed to last forever. We’re playing a lot with plant-based dyes; I work with a natural dye studio in India.
Citypages: What led you to work with companies in India and Peru?
Stanley: When starting my brand, it was important for me that things were made mindfully, and that starts with choosing natural, sustainable fabrics. I don’t use any synthetics. I produced in LA for a bit, but the quality wasn’t there. India is well-known for their craftsmanship, so I worked with a few factories, and narrowed it down to one. I go twice a year, stay at their house. It’s awesome. They’re like family. It’s a true partnership.
I’m also dabbling in knits. That’s in Peru, so I go there once a year. Everything is made out of alpaca. Alpaca isn’t “corporate” yet. You go straight to the maker.
Citypages: What are you working on right now?
Stanley: I'm producing Spring 2020, finishing up Fall 2020. When I go to India, I’m going to be checking in on production, making sure that everything’s going smoothly. That collection ships end of February. I take Fall ’20 to market in New York early February. It’s a constant go go go.
Citypages: What are your goals for the brand in the coming years?
Stanley: I like the direction I’m going. I like collaborating with stores like Idun; we’re both like-minded small businesses and we’ll grow together.
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