Mara Hoffman

Artist, Designer & Dreamweaver
Mara Hoffman

Mara Hoffman

Photos by KATIE McCURDY

You can actually feel an intergalactic energy bursting out of Mara Hoffman’s prints as you look at them. They are exotic, hypnotic as they explode off the fabric with the same ethereal spirit she possesses. Wearing her clothes feels almost like a celebration. Her ultra feminine silhouettes create a narrative that transports you to another world. An Egyptian goddess, a mystic traveler, a tropical gypsy, a mermaid. Perhaps I’ve just described Mara Hoffman herself, she does not disappoint. With her ballet dancer’s chiseled arms and mane of wild hair, she looks as if she has just been dropped down from the stars. Welcome to Mara’s magical mystery tour…..

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LES DREAMERS: Hi Mara, do you remember meeting probably 15 or 16 years ago? It was just you in a tiny studio in Chinatown or the Lower East Side and you wrapped me in some dip dyed black and emerald green jersey situation, like a top with harem pants for an event I was going to.

MARA HOFFMAN: Yep, that’s sounds about right. I remember the outfit!

LES DREAMERS: So how have things changed, what’s it like now?

HOFFMAN: Things have changed quite a bit since then! Now we’re about 28 people, my studio is in flatiron, and there’s a lot more space. I don’t hand dye everything myself anymore, which is a huge relief!

LES DREAMERS: Can we talk about your prints? To put it simply, they are pretty radical. Completely 100% one of a kind. Creating anything that hasn’t been done, seems almost impossible to do these days. Was that your vision always, to go into fashion? Cause the prints could exist wholly on their own, artistically they have their own life.

HOFFMAN: I was making clothes all of the time when I was a kid so I knew right from the beginning that fashion was where I would end up. It works for me; this is all I’ve done. I started my business the summer after I graduated, and I’ve never had a job anywhere else since. For 16 years I have focused on building my business, and evolving in this world.

LES DREAMERS: So where does it shift from this very organic, artistic one of a kind hand dyed process into a hugely successful brand?

HOFFMAN: It’s been so gradual and has involved so much hard work; the company has always been privately owned too. I wanted to find a way to express my vision that I could scale, which also happened organically. I was in my backyard one day and I had just moved in with my boyfriend, now husband. I had stretched a piece of silk on a handmade frame and silk painted these very awkward green leaves into a painting and I said to myself, “I’m gonna turn this into a print.” And so I did!

LES DREAMERS: I had that dress! Well, I stole that dress from a mutual friend of ours (Ashlee Margolis if you’re listening) I don’t know if I ever gave it back. It was the shit.

HOFFMAN: Haha, everybody had that dress. So that was how I really expanded my narrative. I found someone who turned my art into fabric, the silhouettes were really simple and it grew from there. And that’s how the prints were born!

LES DREAMERS: And did you ever see your brand branching out into swim? I mean at this point you could put your stamp on pretty much anything and people would wear it. But you created a whole new silhouette in swimsuits that hadn’t really been done before!  Not since maybe the 50’s. Suddenly mom jeans became fashionable and viola! You come out with these crazy high waisted bikinis, game-changer. That would not even have come close to being considered “sexy” 10 years ago. And you nailed it. Lattice weave cut-out bottoms, deep halter one pieces, somehow they’re so provocative and sexy yet not overtly in the slightest. That’s a very hard balance to maintain.

HOFFMAN: Well I’ve always been drawn to the body. I was a dancer, I grew up dancing ballet, and I got into yoga a very long time ago. I’ve always been really drawn to women’s bodies and I understood how to work with a body. I love that relationship to the physical part of it, not just making clothes, but how they interact with one another. Then when swim started I thought, “Agh, I can come back to the body!” I could make these little pieces with bolder aspects because people are a little more fearless when it comes to buying a swimsuit, it’s a different mentality. It’s the closest thing to naked most women are going to be in public in their lives. Is this flattering? Is this how I want to be seen so exposed? It’s an emotional purchase. Through that I felt like I really established what the DNA of the brand was going to be for the following years. My voice was very clear on who this girl is, and it really changed the game for me and took off from there.

LES DREAMERS: Your vision is very clear, which to me is what makes it so appealing. I read a quote the other day by Anais Nin that said “Creation which cannot express itself becomes madness.” I thought of you and how nature, mysticism and spirituality are all so deeply communicated through your work and obviously something you’re drawn to and in tune with, it resonates with you. Your husband is also an amazing artist as well! Do you feel like you inspire each other’s work? It’s very much in the same universe.

HOFFMAN: Absolutely. He’s the best. He’s a zero-percent-digital kind of guy. He’s got an exact-o knife, vintage paper, old National Geographic magazines; he’s the real, real deal. He inspires me so much. We still have a lot of differentiations in our work. He’s not afraid to explore the part of the psyche that’s a little more dark or a little bit sadder. What I make is more commercial art where his is more fine art, so it allows him more space to explore those themes. I think if my work wasn’t so commercially driven, and I was allowed to go more deeply into those places as an artist, I would enjoy getting a little bit deeper with my work and expression.

LES DREAMERS: Do you ever feel like you’re just drained of ideas? It must feel like a tremendous pressure to create on a time line, when there is such a flow to creating.

HOFFMAN: 100% but then I feel re-energized! Sometimes I get frustrated if it’s just not coming fast enough. But it always works out. I’ve tapped into a place of understanding energetically; it will come if you let go.

LES DREAMERS: You never get to stop though, do you?

HOFFMAN: No but I’m used to it now that I’ve been doing it for so many years. I long for it to slow down though now that I’ve gained more perspective on it. I have had to find some balance since I had my son. I have to leave work on time and go home to him. I’ve finally been able to build a team that allows me to do that, and see him at minimum a few nights a week to put him to bed. It’s not a choice, I have to.

LES DREAMERS: So do you feel like you’re in a place now where the machine kind of runs itself and you just have to navigate the direction?

HOFFMAN: I have to challenge myself to not sit in the state of status quo. I’ve been in this introspection of who I am as an artist. I’ve been really inspired by all of the minimalism out there. It’s not what I put out there but it’s what I’m inspired by. It’s been an interesting place in my brain. I’m in this space of wanting to change a little bit and reinvent, I’m trying to be open to what that looks like. It’s from the same heart, it’s from the same human and I’m definitely ready for what’s next. Change or die, man!

LES DREAMERS: I hear you. Do you know what that is, what it looks like?

HOFFMAN: A refinement. Make less and make better.

LES DREAMERS: How do you refine your life, how do decompress, tune it all out when you need to turn it all off.

HOFFMAN: It’s something that I’m working on. I have not mastered that yet. I think I’m getting better at it. I have such a weird relationship with my phone, I actually resent it. I resent that I’m addicted to it, to the media and screens. I didn’t have Internet until I was 23 though so I’m grateful I’ve experienced both sides of the fence!

LES DREAMERS: Oh my god completely, that is such a triply thought. That from now on, kids will never experience a life screen free.

HOFFMAN: That’s what society is now, this is the only world they will ever know. It’s so intense! We just bought a house in the woods in upstate New York so that we could be together as a family and just switch it all off as much as possible.

LES DREAMERS: Ha ha ha, cause there’s no wifi there?

HOFFMAN: Ha ha ha, no- there is wifi there for sure. It’s just more about going for a run, going to the lake, and making sure we’re outside as much as possible, you know? I have a TV addiction too.

LES DREAMERS: What?! That’s so weird, you do?

HOFFMAN: Uh huh. The people around me are always in shock and awe at how much TV I’m able to watch in the life that I live. I don’t know how I do it, but I just secretly find a way.

LES DREAMERS: Fascinating. I wouldn’t call that one at all. Are you reading anything at the moment?

HOFFMAN: I’m reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I’m usually reading some kind of spiritual book. I like having that conversation going, so I always have a foot in that space. I meditate twice a day and we’ve started meditating as a company every day. At 4pm we go into the showroom for 20 minutes and it’s the best, it’s a game changer.

LES DREAMERS: That’s amazing, I love that you do that! What an amazing thing to offer your team. So your collective consciousness as a company is really in sync and I believe that you can actually feel that in the collections. Very rarely is there a label that when I look at a collection, I want everything across the board. I completely overwhelmed with consumerism when I go on your site, I want it all! I want to be that girl. So who’s out there you’d love to see your clothes on?

HOFFMAN: Marina Abramović. I’m not sure.  On the celebrity level, that world doesn’t super inspire me. There’s really rad women out there doing rad things, but I don’t sit and pine for it. Tilda Swinton is really radical. I’d like to get in a time machine and costume Cher in the 1970’s for sure.

LES DREAMERS: Yessssss! So at this point, if you had to give it all up and do something else what would it be?

HOFFMAN: At this point, I just want to help people. I would want to make art, be of service to others, and devote more of my life to spirituality.

LES DREAMERS: To join the tribe tune into Mara’s exclusive playlist for LES DREAMERS here…xo

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