Maria Pinto Interview
(Maria V. Pinto Designs Inc.)

She’s one of the fastest rising designers in the Fashion World today.
Calling Chicago home-----we’re talking about Maria Pinto.
Maria first worked for Geoffrey Beene before leaving to start her own company, Maria V. Pinto Designs Inc.
Maria Pinto Designs has a clientele that involves exclusive boutiques and high-end department stores in every major metropolitan area in the United States.

Q – Maria, how did you get interested in the world of Fashion Design?
A – I was always interested in fashion. Probably from the 7th or 8th grade I was making my own clothes. For me, its fashion slash art. I’ve always studied art and I just consider fashion an extension of art that I adore, which is sculpture. So, textiles become sculpture on the body, because you’re dealing with three dimension.

Q – You design for women only?
A – Yes.

Q – Is it possible that you can create something that has never been thought of before?
A – Yeah. Absolutely. Within your own interpretation of course. There’s references, but, I think there’s enough room for something to be truly new.

Q – Who would be some of the designers that influenced you?
A – I would definitely say Geoffrey Beene. There’s different people that have a different approach that have certainly influenced me.

Q – How about artists that have influenced you?
A – I’m very interested in the abstract expressionists. A lot of paintings are strong references. Abstractions. A very modern approach.

Q – Were you a designer for Geoffrey Beene?
A – I worked there for a couple of years as an assistant. Not as an assistant designer-----just as an assistant in the offices. I did anything and everything. We might be doing a fashion show and need a funky corset for an inspiration and I’d go downtown and look through some of the old lingerie shops and find a corset. Or, we might need funky color hose for the show. In the meantime, I’d be in the rooms working with everybody and experiencing that, which is what it’s all about. It’s definitely an extension of you education.

Q – Was it difficult to get hired at Geoffrey Beene?
A – I think it’s a very desirable place to be, yeah.

Q – Did you have to go back for a couple of interviews?
A – Yeah. I think people take a liking to you and so then they try and help get you through.

Q – And after 2 years, you left to start your own company?
A – Yes.

Q – Did that require you to get a bank loan?
A – Yes. It’s very different for every person. What I did, which is all I know first-hand, is that I took a small loan and started making some samples, took them around to the stores and I was very fortunate because stores the likes of Ultimo in Chicago which is quite an important place to have as a client, picked me up right away. One thing led to another and with that behind me, I went to New York and Bergdorf and Niemans and Saks and they all picked it up. So, it’s a building process. One thing leads to another.

Q – When you go to an exclusive boutique, do you personally make the pitch to have them carry your designs?
A – I don’t go to show them the collection. I go there after the fact. Typically everyone I see, I see in New York. All the buyers come through New York, either at a show or at the showroom. They’ll see the collection and I’ll work with them at showroom. We’ll discuss what their store is like and how we can show it in their store. You sell differently to someone in Charleston than maybe you would in downtown New York, because it’s a different lifestyle and a different sense of color. So, they’ll buy the collection and then I will go to the store and do a trunk show or something like this. In my travels, I always investigate new possibilities, new stores.

Q – When do all of your designs have to be ready to show?
A – My Fall collection has to be ready by March 1st. The show is in New York and I have to be there and have it all ready for everyone to love and wanna buy.

Q – How do you know what’s going to be popular with women six months before the season even starts?
A – You don’t. For me, I think it’s almost instinct. You have to trust your instinct. Fortunately for me, I’m a woman, so I go with what I need. I go-----what would I want? Mostly what I do is evening or very luxurious day. So, I think-----what are my needs at the moment? I kind of follow through that. I think it’s really all about your instinct and gut, because, if you start looking around too much, you’ll lose your own focus and you become everybody else. I think you need to be aware of what’s happening in fashion, but, you should kind of keep your distance from it, ‘cause so much comes in subliminally, that if you’re too pre-occupied about it, you’re no longer in your own thinking.

Q – You actually design for a wealthier clientele don’t you?
A –Yeah. Fortunately or unfortunately whatever the case may be, that’s not where it starts. The reason that happens to be the case is because first of all, I love really, really beautiful and innovative fabrics. They tend to be very expensive and so that already limits who the customer is going to be. We have other things that are a little more understated, like “Mother of The Bride”, “Special Occasion”, or just an event. We do a lot of alternative bridal for brides that are not looking to wear a classic wedding dress. So, there’s a lot of functions that are not necessarily being part of that whole scene where you have a whole lifestyle when you’re living in L.A. or New York. There’s so many events that you would certainly wear all these glamorous things to. But, everyone even in a more capsulized way has maybe one or two events a year, or one every two or three years; maybe a daughter gets married or a friends having a party that’s very special, so they’ll want something special for that. So, they certainly find a broad range of things from me.

Q – Are you the only designer at your company?
A – Yes.

Q – How much of a problem is heroin use in the Fashion industry, with models? Have you personally seen it? Has it bee exaggerated?
A – I’ve never experienced it, so whether it’s exaggerated or not, I don’t know. I’ve never, ever, ever, even come close to it. But, I can’t say that it doesn’t exist just because I haven’t experienced it.

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