Focusing on expression and individuality, designer Maria Dora highlights the importance of gender inclusivity in her exciting new collection Georgia ic25. This sustainable line introduces freedom from conformity and rejects past traditions of binary restrictions that are common in the fashion industry.
Dora’s new project engages with the free-forming, delicate approach that emblematic artist Georgia O’Keeffe incorporated in her style, whilst referencing the sleek forms and neutral palettes that are present in the work of Charles and Ray Eames, another one of Dora’s artistic inspirations. This collection illustrates how comfort and style can be unified to create a product that can transform into whatever it is you want it to be. With its unconventional structures and minimalist aesthetic, this collection opens a new dimension to experimental fashion.
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Growing up, what were your earliest memories of fashion? Did you have any explicit views of the industry that you agreed or disagreed with?
My mom was probably my first exposure to fashion. She was a fit model in her youth, so she always dresses well. She’s a quality versus quantity person – she has forty-year-old pieces that still wears, and they look timeless. Looking back, my sustainable/design practices are definitely influenced by her pragmatism and attention to detail.
I read in one of your former interviews that your parents were both med students, did you always want to go into fashion or were you once thinking of pursuing a career in a similar field as Mom and Dad?
I was briefly a biochemistry student, but I actually have a Political Science degree – I focused on constitutional law and game theory. I ended up getting my second degree at Parsons because I didn’t want to go to law school. The change was partially to have a reason to move to New York City, but thankfully, everything worked out the way it was supposed to.
In what ways did your culture growing up influence the style you currently adopt for your brand?
My mom is from the Philippines and my dad is from Nicaragua, but I didn’t grow up around a lot of extended family – it was just me, my brother and my parents moving around a lot. My home life was often a respite from whatever else was going on, and I really appreciate that my parents made the effort to share their culture, even in little ways. I still hold a lot of those lessons close, and that inevitably seeps into my work.
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The new Georgia ic2 collection takes on an innovative sense of style and character, how do you get inspired to experiment with the different shapes and forms in your pieces?
I knew from the beginning that I wanted a small but versatile array of styles to start with, almost like an ideal wardrobe. Not necessarily to make a rigid uniform but more like a handful of pieces that were easy to live and work in. The goal was to make utilitarian items that could work together or stand alone – I’ve had people tell me that a piece will be their favorite and they’ll just wear it all the time regardless of the situation. A friend was wearing her apron out for dinners rather than just working in her studio, and I thought that was so cool. The pieces are whatever you want them to be.
The universal lockdown due to the pandemic took most of us by surprise and forced a lot of us to adapt to our new realities. Would you say that quarantine gave you some time to finalise the artistic concepts for Georgia ic2?
Definitely. I was in Paris when lockdown was starting, so I hurried back to Los Angeles as soon as I could. Work was the last thing on my mind initially, but the slowed-down pace gave me time to reflect and see things in a new light.
The tones in your pieces consist of stunning earthy pigments that ultimately deliver a calming aesthetic to the overall collection. What would you say your neutral colour palette for this collection is a reflection of?
To be honest, I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago. The pandemic has been difficult and isolating, but it gave me a chance to let go of things that were harming my health, mentally and physically. I feel lighter and more optimistic now than ever before.
The world is in turmoil, but I just want to offer a bit of peace to those I care about most. There are a lot of things that I miss, but the idea of reuniting with loved ones has kept me going. Each colorway reminds me of someone I love, and I think there’s something precious in that.
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Your pieces tend to provide a sense of inclusivity, for example, with gender, body type and age. How do you manage to incorporate a universal sense of individuality in your pieces?
In a weird way, my work is always a product of sincere realization. Once I saw how the pieces were just naturally fitting on people, I realized that some things have a life of their own. The pieces work well when it comes to individual interpretation.
Your pieces take on such a beautiful fluidity in form, would you say this is symbolic for your message of gender fluidity?
I’m not sure, but whether it’s an asymmetrical neckline or extra straps, these are just details on an idea that has been fitted and refitted, over and over. In the end, whatever the piece is, it still needs approval from my community. Sometimes it changes, sometimes it doesn’t. The jacket has not changed much since its inception, but the pants have – I think we’re on the sixth or seventh rendition now. So maybe that’s where the fluidity comes from, it’s me listening to the feedback of my peers and loved ones. I’m okay with the idea that these pieces might keep changing as the years go by – I’m actually excited for that challenge.
A lot of the stigmas surrounding gender and gender conformity are currently being eradicated in today’s society as more people are drifting from what is known as the gender ‘norms.’ What influenced you to create a genderless collection?
Gendered clothing is a little strange to me. Maybe because I’m considered plus size, shopping in both the men’s and women’s sections has always made sense to me. It doesn’t matter to me what the label says, wear what feels good. These constructs don’t help anyone.
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You’ve stated that you have dedicated this new collection to your love for Georgia O’Keeffe. Which works are you particularly inspired by, and how do you manage to incorporate her painterly style into your pieces?
Funny enough, my initial inspiration had nothing to do with her painting; I was actually inspired by an exhibit about her clothing. The very first Georgia piece is a jacket inspired by her beloved white chore coat. I was obsessed with remaking the jacket, so I tracked down a piece from the same year and manufacturer – it ended up being our main inspiration for the collection. I don’t own that coat anymore, but every time I see it on my friend Jeff’s feed, it just makes me smile.
What other artists/designers have influenced your past and present works?
Charles and Ray Eames. They had a project that started at the University of Georgia and, ultimately, it was presented at UCLA as a way to modernize art education. They were big believers that education should emphasize the parallels of art and everyday life, that the two worlds weren’t separate but rather worked in tandem.
Finding that link pulled Georgia together and gave it structure – all of the pieces come back to the idea of ‘art in everyday life.’ That in turn connected to Imum Coeli (where the ic25 comes from), which roughly translates from Latin to ‘bottom of the sky.’ The idea of connection, roots and foundation is always going to be a part of Georgia’s story.
You mentioned that before starting your own brand, you worked in knitwear consulting. In what ways did your career in knitwear consulting allow you to explore new dimensions to your artistry?
I got very lucky, and I primarily work as a consultant for film and television, creating custom knits for various costume designers. I have such respect for the costume designers that I work with, they’re literally the geniuses of our industry, creating these insane garments in such a short time. Each project has its unique challenges, but it’s incredibly fulfilling. To know my knits are a small part of someone’s immense vision and narrative is a humbling experience. It definitely puts me in a place of gratitude, especially when I’m working on my own pieces.
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