“Big Mama,” one of artist Iena Stonaker’s larger-than-life beaded denim sculptures, has taken up temporary residence in Mara Hoffman’s boutique on Lafayette Street as part of an ongoing collaboration between the designer and Studio Archive Project. Soft sculpting is one of Stonaker’s signatures, and if you think about it, Hoffman is somewhat in the same line of work.
The designer chose the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo headquarters as the setting for her lookbook, and her dresses stand out from works by Alexander Calder and Jean DuBuffet. Hoffman continued to use her size-inclusive popcorn dresses as color-blocked canvases; there are new solid colors with hollowed out backs for fall. A selection of knitted dresses, some with portrait backs, and one that outlines the bust like two leaves of a three-leaf clover, leave the wearer’s face the center of attention.
Hoffman said the organic denim pieces (there were only three, so not a critical mass) were closest to his own style. Most people will consider the designer’s luxe polo sweater a fall staple, but the heaviness of the printed padded robe coats has muddied the message of effortless comfort. The stars of the show were perfectly tailored, yet simple recycled cotton trouser suits – one sage, the other saffron – that might even win over ‘Big Mama’, who is wearing her birthday suit , to get dressed.
What isn’t visible to the naked eye but attracts customers is all the effort Hoffman puts into responsible design. While acknowledging that it is impossible to be fully sustainable, Hoffman believes there will never be “a time on this planet when the role of the artist, the innovator, the designer, the creative, is not essential to our evolution”. And she has hope in the innovators to come. “I think for a long time we weren’t [as designers] loaded with solutions, we were just given free rein to our egos, and now the designers have a whole other responsibility. Students have to solve problems, they don’t just express their inner parts, like, “this is what I find beautiful”. “Hoffman is a bridge between the old way of doing things and the new. “I’m happy to be an alternative right now,” Hoffman says. “It’s a big part of what brings customers to us and why they pay our prices. Take care of people.”