It’s been over two years since Mara Hoffman announced that she was shifting her business model to make her line completely eco-friendly. Last week, the industry vet headed back to school to guest lecture at LIM College’s “Fashion Now & Then: Fashion & Sustainability” conference, where she spoke to students/aspiring designers about what led to her decision, her career evolution, and changes in the industry, as well as providing advice during a Q&A session. “People thought I was crazy, walking away from money,” Hoffman said on the initial reactions when she announced her shift to sustainable fashion. We asked her a few questions of our own…
How does it feel to be back in a classroom?
It feels great! It’s such a different world. It’s so awesome that these students get to start at this place—there’s no other choice. They have to because we’ve already done so much harm in the industry that they have to start with this kind of education. It’s imperative.
Have you ever taught a class before?
I haven’t! It’s my first time. I love to speak about my journey and my process. If I can inspire a few people to have that aha moment or turn a light on and it changes their course, then I feel great.
What has made the most impact since your brand went sustainable?
For us, it’s on a fabrication level as well as a conversation level with our customer—the way we place the brand, speak about the clothing, and on an aesthetic level. The aesthetic of the brand has absolutely shifted, especially in the past year.
Do you think the sustainable model will become even more common in the industry?
I think there are some other brands who are definitely engaging and making big changes in their manufacturing. I don’t know if it’s us that are the catalysts but I think a lot of us are in this movement.
Who have you looked up to in the world of sustainable fashion most?
Eileen Fisher, Patagonia, and Stella McCartney. Those are the people/brands who have done this work far longer than I’ve ever been thinking about it.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to those who want to follow your footsteps?
If you’re just starting in the business, you have to do it purposefully and responsibly. If it’s ego-based, it’ll crash. We don’t have room for it on the planet. If you’re already in it, start evaluating the work that you’re doing and where you can make shifts and changes. If you’re working for a larger company, start inspiring them to make changes. Choose companies that are open to that idea because I think it’s going to become survival of the fittest, in that the good ones will hopefully make it and the not good ones won’t.