More on Maria Cornejo

In my new article about New York Fashion Week, I briefly described the scene and the clothing at the Zero + Maria Cornejo show, one of Michelle Obama’s favorite designers. Before the crowds piled in for one of Maria Cornejo’s most packed shows to date, I got a look backstage–I posted photos earlier–and chatted with Maria. Since the entire interview didn’t fit in my article, I’m posting it here so you can get a peek into the mind of a fashion designer.

Samantha: What goes into designing a collection?
Maria: A lot of sweat and tears and stress! I personally start from fabric. I start from finding beautiful fabrics, which then dictate the shapes. I’m very much into geometry and draping, so the fabric very much dictates the shape. I like the contrast between hard fabrics and soft fabrics and textures. I’m always into the contrast between male and female, the androgyny and things that are very feminine and sexy. I always like the juxtaposition of those two elements, like hard and soft, and feminine and masculine.

Samantha: Did the economy affect you this season?
It’s hard to say. Yeah, October in the store was really difficult. I think we were down by like 30 percent or so. But it’s picked up again and I think we have our own clientele who are very, very loyal. I think we’re all affected, but the thing is that we–I think we don’t compete with anybody else. Basically, the people who like our clothes very much just shop from us–we’re very much niche–and they shop from a couple of European designers or whatever. We have really loyal stores and boutiques that sell the collection around the world and especially in America….And the clothes are pretty timeless–they’re not about a season–and I think that gives them lasting power, so people invest in the clothes. And also, price-point wise, we’re not up there. We’re upper but not UP there, still reasonable. I think that’s probably one of the reasons why Michelle [Obama] likes the collection, because she can afford to wear it everyday…

Samantha: You just recently moved your showroom. Is there any particular reason?
We were running out of space, but it was also time to move. The space that we found felt really special. There are a lot of windows–it feels like you’re in Paris, it feels like you’re in a French couturier. It’s actually an artist’s studio.

Samantha: Can you tell me about your relationship with Michelle Obama?
I personally don’t have any relationship with her. It’s all done through a store that we sell to in Chicago, Ikram. I am totally in awe of [the Obamas]. I think they’re amazing, and I’m really glad that there’s a young couple my age in the White House. I think that’s amazing…They’re very interested in the arts, as well, and I think that’s why she’s really supporting American fashion and especially younger designers or less well-known designers. I think it’s great.

Samantha: Do you consider her a fashion icon?
She’s an icon. I think to put it down to fashion would be a little bit limiting. I think she’s a really good role model for women–strong, intelligent, and looking good–but it’s not her only quality. She’s a really intelligent woman and I’d hate to reduce it to one line, you know?

Samantha: Is there anything in this collection that you designed with her in mind?
Well, there are things that she likes from my collection–the dolman sleeves, I know she likes. You’ll see! They’re not with her in mind but I know she’ll probably like those things.

I personally loved Maria Cornejo’s monochrome looks, which are indeed both feminine and masculine at the same time.

Look #9: Lola Seam Skirt in Brown Rama Corduroy, Joey Hoodie in Shearling, Blade Vest in Shearling, Drape Bag in Shearling

Look #18: One Seam Pant in Black Stretch Leather, Leah Peacoat in Black Dura Rib, Ruched Gloves in Putty Felted Knit

And while I can’t see the First Lady rockin’ a pair of skinny leather pants, I can see her in this dress, can’t you?

Look #27: Swing Dress in Foliage Print

Photos via



  1. I can see her wearing the swing dress and the pea coat and wearing American designer clothing is good for the country. Not much chance the clothes are actually made here though because that would really create some jobs.


  1. […] career, since I interviewed her in February 2009 for one of my Fashion Week articles (here and here). She has since become one of the country’s most innovative designers with her eye for […]