Hoffman's brand of Technicolor tribal hippie chic
offers a summertime pick-me-up. "It s
feel-good fashion," says Stephanie Kennedy, a
buyer for Revolve.com, which stocks the line.
YORK — Mara Hoffman’s brand of Technicolor tribal
hippie chic is a summertime pick-me-up if ever there was
New York designer best known for her swim and resort
collections is lending her kaleidoscopic prints and
rainbow warrior aesthetic to an ever-growing universe of
products, including ready-to-wear, bridal gowns, kids
clothing, iPhone cases, Pendleton towels, Havaianas
flip-flops and, new this month, a home collection for
feel-good fashion," says Stephanie Kennedy, a buyer
for Revolve.com, which stocks the line. "While it’s
always recognizable as Mara, the brand is evolving.
People want more from her."
they’ll soon get it. Come September, Hoffman will
become bicoastal, opening a design studio in Los Angeles
and, hopefully, her first-ever store here, where all her
swimwear is already produced.
want to have a home in L.A. that resembles what we’ve
built in New York and translates our brand to the side
of the country where the clothes are being worn
more," she says.
been 14 years since Hoffman, who grew up in Buffalo,
N.Y., and graduated from Parsons School of Design,
started making hand-dyed, one-of-a-kind clothing out of
her apartment in New York City’s Curry Hill
neighborhood. Soon after, she was discovered by
"Sex and the City" costume designer Patricia
Field when she was bringing some of her clothing to a
consignment store to pay the bills. Field placed a
$5,000 order, and Hoffman thought she had won the
lottery. From there, she began selling her pieces
store-to-store, modeling them herself.
launched her collection, then called Circle, during New
York Fashion Week in 2000, staging a drum circle instead
of a runway show. "It was really earthy," she
says during a visit to her New York showroom, which is
decorated with a hippie chic tepee, giant dream catchers
and Turkish carpets. "But it set the tone."
orders mounted, she found the hand work to be
unsustainable. "I realized there had to be an
evolution if I was going to grow. I couldn’t keep
hand-dyeing batiks and picking the wax bits out with my
she developed a new design focus beginning in spring
2006 — prints. "I stretched silk across a wood
frame and hand-painted big green waves," she
remembers of her first print, which was copied by more
than one fast-fashion retailer. Those hand-painted
prints evolved into computer-designed prints, and the
trippy multicolored geometric shapes became a brand
signature, buoying sales. "The prints gave me a
voice and allowed me to make so many more pieces of
clothing," the designer says.
worked around the clock," says Carly Jo Morgan, an
artist and the designer of the All for the Mountain
jewelry collection, who was interning for Hoffman at the
time. "Seeing that grass-roots way of getting your
business going and the passion Mara put behind it, where
she is now makes perfect sense. Nothing was handed to
was a natural progression in 2008 and, as it turned out,
another smart business move. "Ready-to-wear is a
hard, super-saturated business with a lot of talented
people making clothes. Swim gave me an opportunity to
say something that not a lot of people were saying
yet," Hoffman says.
playful bikinis and one-pieces, with sexy cutouts and
strappy lacing details, and her poncho- and
dashiki-style cover-ups put her on the style map in a
bigger way than ever before. When Jessica Simpson wanted
to announce her weight loss to the world last month, she
posted a photo of herself on Instagram wearing Hoffman’s
lace-up one-piece in a print named "cosmic
fountain." Vanessa Hudgens, Kourtney Kardashian and
Ashley Tisdale are fans of the bikinis in prints such as
"divine stone," "astro dreamer" and
"rays violet." Some women, Hoffman included,
even wear the underwire bikini tops as bras.
has a great, eclectic sensibility with prints that
pop," says Sabra Krock, creative director of swim
and resortwear retailer Everything But Water, which has
been stocking Hoffman’s collection for two years.
combination of her psychedelic prints and colors, and
her use of architectural elements on swimwear makes it a
unique collection," says Brooke Jaffe, operating
vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s.
hit on a trend a lot of designers are hitting on now —
swimwear as its own fashion category, with the power to
enhance the prestige and appeal of ready-to-wear.
London-based designer Mary Katrantzou and fashion label
Preen recently launched swimwear collections, while
Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro
Hernandez announced a new license to produce swimwear
incorporating prints and motifs from their clothing. And
the spring 2014 runway shows were full of swimsuits
shown alongside ready-to-wear, at Chanel, Michael Kors,
Dolce & Gabbana, Nanette Lepore and, of course, Mara
Hoffman. She also shows her swim collection in its
entirety during Miami Swim Week.
helped define me and helped me create an identity for my
ready-to-wear," says Hoffman, whose business is
self-funded. "It was like, OK, I know this girl, I
understand her now that I know what she’s wearing to
the beach. The two collections hold hands. They are
always talking to each other and inspiring each
other." (Swimwear sells for $100 to $250, while
clothing is $150 to $525 or more for beaded pieces. The
collections are sold at more than 450 stores worldwide,
including Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and
ShopBop.com. The Anthropologie home collection is $12 to
the spring 2014 ready-to-wear collection in stores now,
Hoffman was out to celebrate being happy by "making
rainbows" with colorful beaded gowns, tie-dye
peasant skirts, print slouch pants, jumpsuits and
sleeveless tops in eclectic, global-inspired prints.
"I know it sounds corny," she says. "But
I don’t need to take myself too seriously because no
one else does! I want you to feel happy and beautiful
when you put on my things. It’s all about finding a
way to do that."
Hoffman plans to keep her home in Williamsburg,
Brooklyn, which she shares with her husband, artist
Javier Pinon, and their 3-year-old son Joaquin, she’s
looking forward to making her L.A. dreams come true,
including finding a bungalow in Venice and teaching her
son how to surf. She hasn’t ever been to the Coachella
Valley Music and Arts Festival, which seems unfathomable
for someone with such a lock on festival style.
mostly, the designer is ready to take her business to
the next level, and she’s on the hunt for a partner to
help. "We’ve got a lot of momentum," she
says. "I have the ideas and the energy and the
vision. Now, I’m ready for an injection."