Design Theory: Maria McManus Looks to Her Irish Heritage for Latest Sustainable Collection

·3 min read

For Maria McManus, sustainability has always been at the core of her brand’s practices. The fashion designer is continuing this practice for her third collection, using sustainably sourced materials to pay homage to her Irish heritage.

“Around the time when I was creating this collection, it was actually the holiday time,” McManus said about her winter 2021 collection. “That’s usually when we go back to Ireland, but with the pandemic we couldn’t, so I think this was a little bit of an ode to going hiking in Ireland.”

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McManus took inspiration from the Irish countryside for the collection, incorporating rich malachite and seafoam tones in the otherwise neutral-colored range of blouses, cardigans, sweatshirts, trousers and outerwear.

Like her previous two collections, McManus is offering pieces she sees as foundational wardrobe items, like chunky wool sweaters, striped blouses, wrap coats and high-waisted trousers, that have eye-catching and modern design elements, such as buttons made from harvested corozo nuts from Ecuador.

“There’s always consistency,” McManus said about all her collections. “At the beginning, I really wanted to create the perfect essentials for your wardrobe, so all of those foundational pieces like a great legging or great shirt. Now that we’ve established what those bases are, we can have a little bit more fun.”

According to McManus, her sustainable practices start with the materials. Her collections have incorporated materials such as recycled cashmere, recycled nylon and organic cotton, which are all certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard.

The winter collection includes items that are designed with a blend of 50 percent recycled cashmere and 50 percent organic cotton, which McManus said is the most sustainable blend she’s been able to use so far. The designer stated she chooses not to use virgin cashmere because the pastures in China and Mongolia are being depleted of the resource. As other brands have opted to use recycled cashmere over the last few years, there’s been a scarcity of the material, which is why she is using the new blend.

With a background in merchandising for brands such as Tory Burch, Rag & Bone and Club Monaco, among others, McManus was always invested in tackling the issue of sustainability and waste in the fashion industry, and wanted to make the topic a central focus of her namesake brand.

“I’ve always been interested in this space of how can you create a business that’s not only about sheer profit,” she said. “It’s about giving back or helping people or communities. That’s something I’ve always strived to achieve in the different elements of my career.”

McManus’ design ethos has already resonated with many since she launched her brand earlier this year. Her collections have been carried by retailers like The Conservatory and la Garçonne in New York, as well as A’maree’s in Newport Beach, Calif., and her fall collection will be available at Nordstrom. She also has a large clientele in Japan, which McManus said accounts for 16 to 30 percent of sales for each collection.

McManus is already busy working on her next few collections, all while expanding her sustainable practices. She stated she is working on getting her factories certified and she is finding a way to transport her designs without the use of plastic.

“The industry has already run into a lot of issues with shortages and I think that’s going to become even more profound over the next 10 years,” she said on why working sustainably is important to her. “Will we have enough cotton? Will we have enough cashmere? We’re creating a lot of issues on the planet in terms of clean water and there are a lot of chemicals used. There’s just a plethora of issues and I think the more companies that start really thinking and talking about sustainability, my hope is that it puts more pressure on the big guys.”


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