Designer Mara Hoffman on Balancing Her Iconic Career and Personal Life
Mara Hoffman has built her iconic brand identity by creating an unmistakable aesthetic; the patterns and prints of Mara’s swimwear and clothing lines are bold, colorful, bohemian, but most importantly, modern. In a social climate where success is no longer a defined path—who goes to college anymore?—Mara’s own story and career tells us we can dream really big, and look good doing it.
Galore: Can you tell us about how you got started as a designer?
Mara Hoffman: The summer after I graduated Parsons, I ran into Patricia Field while consigning some of my designs to pay the bills. She bought my bag on the spot. That experience really fed into my sense of hustle, and gave me the confidence I needed to start taking my clothes to buyers and showrooms and get my first line, Circle by Mara Hoffman, off the ground. In the early days it was all hand-dying, batiking, and embellishments that I did myself – constant trips to the laundromat and lots of late-night beading sessions with my friends.
How does your environment affect the design of the line you’re making? Is it hard to design swimwear when it’s 15 degrees outside in New York City?
It’s never difficult for me to design swimwear based on the time of year – despite the temperature, my mind and spirit are always in a warmer, sunnier place. The cold weather inspires me to travel to warm places and it is usually in those places where I find inspiration.
Do you have a certain girl in mind when you design your line? You definitely have an identifiable aesthetic, so I’m curious.
We definitely design for the open-minded, adventurous girl who is confident in her own skin and not afraid of color. She definitely has a bit of a weirdo spirit hiding in there…
What role does social media play in building your brand? Has this changed?
Social media plays a big role in expanding the voice and visual message of the brand and creating a dialogue with your consumer. Instagram specifically speaks to me — it’s my platform to be free and connect with the world on a creative level. I like being able to have a dialogue with my customer and this is an easy way to have one.
“It’s never difficult for me to design swimwear based on the time of year – despite the temperature, my mind and spirit are always in a warmer, sunnier place.”
What’s one trend you hate?
Hate is a strong word, but I really don’t follow trends in general. I think everyone should dress in whatever makes them feel comfortable and beautiful. I’m really not into ‘flash tats”—does that count?
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
My family – my husband, Javier, and my four-year-old son, Joaquin. I just feel like the luckiest person.
Whose style inspires you?
1970’s Cher, Marisa Berenson, Jane Birkin and Barbara Streisand.
“Ultimately, to make it on your own, you need focus, talent, a point of view, and resilience.”
What advice do you have for young girls aspiring to design professionally?
I think that diversifying your portfolio is really important. We interview a lot of super talented design candidates but find that a lot of their work is too specific to their personal design aesthetic. Once you secure a job, then you can focus on building your personal interests. The flipside of this is to nurture and grow your point of view. Ultimately, to make it on your own, you need focus, talent, a point of view, and resilience.
What advice do you have for young girls in terms of balancing a career with a personal life?
The definition and importance of a “personal life” is really relative to each person, I think. My career has been one of those really great pleasures in my life. That’s not to say I don’t have amazing personal relationships outside of my company — because of the nature of my business, I’ve made work life my personal life. My time is really split between my career and my family.