You may not be familiar with the name Maria Stanley, but the Minnesota native is making waves on the national fashion scene. Just last fall, the Los Angeles–based fashion designer debuted her namesake line with a collection of Victorian-inspired blouses, drapey silk blazers, and mottled-wool jackets, which was quickly picked up by retailers including Anthropologie, Revolve, Shopbop, Garmentory, and Of a Kind. Her designs even garnered a write-up in Vogue, which proclaimed her a “designer to watch,” saying her “dreamy, rose-tinted collection belongs on your wish list.”
In her designs, Stanley eschews trends in favor of the kinds of pieces that she loves: timeless, feminine, and soft. Stanley’s modern-romantic aesthetic marries delicate details, such as vintage-inspired embroidery and unfinished ruffles, and buttery-soft fabrics with clean lines and body-flattering silhouettes, rendered in washed-out colors such as clay, blush, and olive. (Unsurprisingly, she counts Jane Birkin as one of her style icons.) The designer also emphasizes old-world craftsmanship and quality in her pieces, about 40 percent of which are ethically and sustainably manufactured at a woman-owned factory in downtown Los Angeles, with the ruffled and embroidered pieces handmade in India. Each piece is designed at her Silver Lake home studio, and is intended to be a wardrobe staple for years to come.
Stanley moved to L.A. right out of high school in 2006 to study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and had stints working for L.A. labels including Ark & Co., Tulle, and Harlyn. The designer is making her first hometown appearance since launching her line with a popup at the buzzworthy new Wayzata restaurant, 6Smith, which is owned by her father, Randy Stanley. (See images of some of the pieces she’ll have for sale below.) I interviewed the designer prior to this weekend’s popup about growing up in Minnesota, where she finds inspiration for her designs, and why the sustainable fashion movement is important to her.
What brings you to the Twin Cities?
I’m holding a pop up shop at my family’s restaurant, 6Smith in Wayzata, this Saturday. It’s a fun way to introduce my collection to the ladies of my home state good excuse to get the family together and support one another because are all over the moon proud of each other. We’ll have a complimentary specialty cocktail and bites available to munch on while shopping with my newest collection. Also, I have a baby shower on Sunday, and my best friend from high school is having a little girl next month!
I’d love to hear more about your Minnesota connection. Where did you go to high school? Where did you grow up? When and how did you first learn to sew?
I grew up in Forest Lake and went to the high school there. I learned to sew by watching my mom make my Halloween costumes, and making matching ones for my guinea pigs. The design part just came naturally.
What initially drew you to fashion design?
Deep down it was always something that I wanted to do. I was an introverted and creative child, happiest left alone creating and always had a unique sense of style. I started making my own clothes as a teenager, which lead me to dreaming of fashion school.
How would you say that growing up in Minnesota influenced your design aesthetic? What was your experience like growing up here?
The biggest take-away from my childhood and growing up in Minnesota is my parents. They are the most amazing humans who have always encouraged my creativity and supported me in following my dreams.
You founded in your own label in 2015 after working for other L.A. brands. What inspired you to make the leap to designing for your own line? Was there a clear “a-ha” moment?
I was designing a 30-piece collection monthly for the brand I designed before launching my namesake collection. It became more of a numbers game at that point and I felt as though I was designing for other people. I got worn out. I wanted to design what I wanted to wear that I felt was missing in the market with a more curated and authentic approach. Being my own boss and wearing pajamas all day if I want is a big plus.
How did you get picked up by Anthropologie, Shopbop, and Revolve?
I present two collections a year for both New York and L.A. markets where buyers come to view the line and meet me. I also worked with all these accounts previously, so relationships played a big role in getting picked up by them.
How would you describe your line’s aesthetic?
My greatest dream is for ladies who wear my clothes to love and wear them for a very long time. For my design process to always be genuine, to design things I want to wear and for the women around me. To make clothing as ethically and sustainably as possible. To support small and growing businesses such as myself.
What are considerations in your designs—fabric, color, innovation, etc.—are the most important to you, or the first thing you think about when designing a piece?
My collections always start with color and fabric. I geek out over novelty Italian fabrics and antique embroideries so these always play a big role in each collection. But the most important thing to me is to create a collection that makes women feel good with flattering silhouettes that are comfortable. I want to create your favorite piece of your wardrobe that you never want to take off.
Why is ethical, sustainable fashion important to you? Many designers and brands find it challenging to make goods in the U.S. and make a profit. Do you think it’s ethical, sustainable fashion has staying power?
It’s important to me because I have witnessed with my own eyes the waste and unethical working conditions that go along with fast fashion. It is incredibly challenging to create a sustainable and ethical collection, but it’s worth it. It’s not just about me and my design process, it’s about the fabric, the pattern, the sewing, the finishing. There is so much behind the scenes that goes into each and every garment. Everyone deserves to be honored and compensated for their part. I know ethical and sustainable fashion has staying power because so many designers and creators such as myself are making it a priority to not only make their collections in this way but also to tell the story behind their garments.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My inspirations come from all over the place: a Victorian blouse I bought in high school, a Georgia O’Keeffe book my boyfriend bought me for Christmas, the colors from a photo I took looking out from a roof top in Paris. At the root of it, I have loved and admired vintage clothing for as long as I can remember, and I have my mom to thank for that. She had the most beautiful wardrobe that she used to let me play dress up with. I love that she didn’t get rid of things from when she was young, it’s like she saved them for me because she knew I would appreciate them some day.
More images from the latest collection, which will be available to shop at this weekend’s pop-up: