A decade after she set foot in New York to pursue her studies, French fashion designer Miranda Starcevic decided she had had enough. Amid a perfectly-timed global pandemic, she finally took the plunge to start her own label back in Paris, where she grew up surrounded by theatre costumes that sparked her love for art, fashion and colour. Miranda Banana was born. A joyful and inclusive brand that keeps colour at its core and caters for the wildest spirits, for those who wish to express themselves boldly and fearlessly.
Just so that our readers can know you better, who is Miranda Banana? Where does that name come from?
Miranda Banana is a nickname my dad used to give me when I was a kid. I’ve always been drawn to and inspired by my childhood, so it seemed pretty fitting to name my brand after my childhood nickname.
You moved to New York to study fashion at Pratt Institute, but now you are back in Paris, your home city. How different is the fashion scene between these two major fashion capitals? What made you return home?
It’s extremely different. I like to say it’s like night and day. When I left Paris in 2011, I had just turned 18 and was desperately seeking a different environment. I had been bullied in school most of my teenage years and needed to move to a more open-minded city where bold colours, fun textiles and personal style was accepted. I had developed and used my personal style as a shield to protect myself from the outside world. New York was the perfect place for that. People would comment on your outfit in the street and it would make your day. You could be absolutely anything you’ve ever wanted and feel accepted. That’s what I liked about moving to NYC compared to a more toned-down and subtle city like Paris at the time. It accepted me just the way I was. It was exactly what I needed for the time being.
However, after almost 10 years in New York, I felt burnt out. Tired, depressed. I couldn’t keep up with the pace, everything was moving too fast. I was losing myself. I had lived through a lot of traumatic experiences including a sexual assault. I decided it was time to return to my childhood city, the place where I grew up. I’ve been living here for 3 years now and I’m very happy with my decision. I had nothing planned when moving back. It was a huge mystery. It’s ironic that covid hit and that’s what helped me jump into the deep end by becoming a small business owner – I started Miranda Banana during lockdown. Life here is a lot slower but I still feel energised and inspired. I’ve managed to keep up. The beauty of Paris was something I deeply missed, and the quality of life is so different here. Even though my brand would fit better in a city like NYC, Copenhagen or London in terms of aesthetic, Paris is my home and this is where I decided to start this big adventure.
The fashion industry is not an easy field to work in. Did you have to face any struggles when you decided to create your own brand?
Oh yes. I won’t lie. It’s definitely a struggle. I’ve always looked for a positive and non-toxic environment, which has been very hard to find in the fashion industry. People are cruel, jealous and selfish. Only seeking their own interest. I’ve lost friends along the way, but at the end of the day, I would rather work with people that share the same values as me. That includes friendship, helping each other and building together. If my business grows, I want to bring the people that helped me along. I don’t deserve to move forward without the people that helped me get where I am today.
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Miranda Banana lives and breathes colour. An array of blues, greens, yellows and pinks have been stitched together to create playful garments that are full of contrast and joy. But why is this explosion of colour so important for you?
I’ve always been very attached to colour. It’s something that brings me joy and happiness. I think it brings joy and happiness to others as well, but sometimes people are too scared of it! Without colour, I find life to be extremely boring and dull. I’ll always remember back in 2018, I was in the subway in NYC. It was mid-December, -10ºC and everyone was freezing cold. Winter generally means dark clothing, but I refuse to wear black. I was wearing my favourite colourful winter coat that day – a red and blue wool coat. I wasn’t having the best day, but a woman came up to me and told me - Oh my god, I’ve had the shittiest day but, for some reason, your coat just gave me so much energy. It made my day! I smiled back at her and yelled: no, you just made my day! From that day on, I told myself that if I can make other people smile in the street through colourful clothing, it would be the coolest thing. I have now decided to create collections in strong, rich colours that bring brightness and joy to people’s lives. Colour has personally helped me manoeuvre through those difficult experiences and will hopefully have the same effect upon those who choose to wear my clothes.
Some of the looks you have created remind me of the costumes used in plays. I also know you used to spend hours in the attic trying on the ones from your parents’ theatre company. Have those costumes influenced the aesthetics of your designs?
Yes, they definitely have. My childhood was joyful and fun, which is a huge privilege, but I only realised recently. Growing up in an artistic environment has made me who I am today. It has inspired most of my style and taste and will most probably inspire me until the day I die. I would say the costumes were the most influential for me, but dancing and music have also inspired me. Self-expression has always been something my parents have taught me.
The patchwork nature of your designs allows you to use scraps and leftover fabrics for many of your clothes, making Miranda Banana a zero-waste brand. In what other ways do you approach sustainability?
My brand is based on a made-to-order business motto. The customer places an order and will get the item made specifically for them. This was something I really wanted to do. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on the planet. Fast fashion has truly destroyed everything – millions of garments are thrown away each day. Why not create sustainably, with no stock so that we can avoid waste? And why not create clothing in a safe environment where workers aren’t suffering from terrible working conditions. I find sustainability has become probably the most important consideration right now. We cannot continue living this way.
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Your colourful designs have been divided into a summer and a winter collection. While the former has a light, playful aura, the latter seems more sober and refined. How do they both incorporate Miranda Banana’s essence?
Colours and texture can quickly turn into something clown-like or costume-y. I don’t want my customers to identify with that. I want them to feel smooth, confident and sexy at the same time. That’s why I offer two different essences.
Despite the importance of colour in your designs, you have created an all-black collection of elegant, yet sexy silhouettes, made of luxurious materials like velvet and silk. What was the biggest challenge when you decided to focus on black? And why did you do so?
This was something I did not want to do at first. I was completely against it. Why make black clothing when my motto is: Take a walk on the wild side with Miranda Banana. But after chatting with friends and family, I realised I wasn’t being inclusive towards womxn that don't like to stand out and wear colour. They feel safe in darker colours like black. And since my brand is also about inclusivity, I decided to cave in and make something for the more subtle. Because I want everyone to feel included in my brand. If it’s not through colour, it can be through my designs and fabrics.
Every piece in your collections is named after a woman that has inspired you. What makes these women so inspiring?
Women have always inspired me. However, they are not often given enough credit. Something that has always bothered me about living in Paris is that most streets and avenues are named after men. Even subway and bus stops. All named after famous important white men. When are we going to change that? I decided that my garments would all be named after women that inspire me, because you have to start somewhere to deconstruct patriarchy, right? I have dresses named after painters like Sonia Delaunay, singers like Grace Jones and Amy Winehouse, but also pieces named after my mother and sister. Because they inspire me as much as Amy or Grace do!
Sizing is one of the problems we need to solve in the fashion industry. Most fast fashion brands tend to forget about bigger and smaller bodies, causing insecurities for many people, especially women. However, your garments are carefully made to order and crafted by your tightly-knit team in Paris. How does this help towards a more inclusive industry? Is it possible to make clothes for everyone?
Fashion is such an unfair industry. It’s racist, non-inclusive and body shames every person that doesn’t fit beauty standards. I did not want to take part in that. That’s why my brand’s pieces are made to order. Sustainability was a big chunk, but sizing was the other chunk. If you want an item made specially for you, all you need to do is send your measurements, and Bob’s your uncle. It shouldn’t be difficult to dress yourself and find your own style in your size. I know for a fact, my aunt, who is 50, cannot find her size anywhere, nor can she find fun and colourful clothes. That’s shameful. We have so many resources, everything is accessible nowadays, but fashion remains inaccessible. It’s time to change that!
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