For the last 21 years, the New York designer Mara Hoffman has kept her ardent clientele satiated with earthy, bohemian style and supremely wearable collections. Since 2015, Hoffman has also committed her brand to upholding sustainable practices, implementing more ecologically and ethically responsible measures across the company to create transparency, while also fostering a conversation about consumption habits, in a bid to reorientate the relationship society has with clothing.
Her latest endeavour on this front takes the form of a botanically dyed capsule line, produced in collaboration with the artist and natural dyer, Cara Marie Piazza. Comprising three classic styles – elastic paperbag-waisted trousers, a long-sleeved button-down dress, and a pyjama-style shirt, which was actually taken from existing inventory and dyed over – the succinct collection lays bare the ubiquitous issues that come with overproduction in the fashion industry and elegantly offers a solution.
The making of Mara Hoffman's botanical dye capsule collection
Piazza has created a tie-dye effect on the garments using organic safflower, natural rose and natural indigo pigments. Hand-dyed using a bundling technique and created at Piazza’s studio in Brooklyn, each piece boasts its own unique colour and pattern variation.
‘I work with natural dyes as a medium, like oil paint, and each dye application is unique to the canvas it belongs on,’ says Piazza. ‘When working with clients, I create a recipe specific to their wants with the plant ingredients that I know will create the desired effect. Mara wanted hot pink, so safflower and rose were the plants to achieve it. Safflower, through a series of alchemical baths of citric acid and alkaline solutions, creates the hot pink patterning you see on the pieces. Each piece is hand rolled, steamed and soaked in three baths to achieve the uniqueness of each garment.’
‘We are very excited for the opportunity to transform past styles into new, one-of-a-kind pieces,’ adds Hoffman. ‘This entire capsule was cut and sewn in New York City and made with linen Tencel. With the challenges of this past year, we have been even more committed to finding creative ways to utilise inventory that already exists, in order to give it a second life and avoid adding additional items to a growing heap in landfills.’
Hoffman has been refreshingly transparent about the challenges that 2020 brought with it. In a recent newsletter sent out to the brand’s customers, she shared how she had cancelled production of the Autumn/Winter 2020 collection, opting instead to make better use of existing inventory. With regards to its current Spring 2021 collection, the brand’s first ‘new’ offering in a year, Hoffman says, ‘The collection as a whole utilises as many of our existing fabrics, styles and inventory as we could with this commitment in mind, such as the “Eleanor” button shirts that were dyed over by Cara. This collaboration is our first dip into botanical dyeing and certainly will not be our last.’
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Pei-Ru Keh is a former US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru held various titles at Wallpaper* between 2007 and 2023. She reports on design, tech, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru took a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars, actively seeking out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.
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