Mara Hoffman on becoming a catalyst

Renata Black, EBY Co-Founder & CEO

A version of this article was first published on HuffPost.

Mara Hoffman – American Fashion Designer

I think acknowledging the space you create around you is important, tell me a little bit about the space you like to keep around you.

I wear a ton of hats in this business, so when it comes to actually getting to work, I need space to think. Less distraction is really important to me. I like a clean, organized space. I’m pretty chaotic, so I surround myself with organized people. I can’t be around messy people because we’ll drown together. I create easier if someone is assisting me in the organizational aspect of it. It took me a long time to embrace and understand how important that part is. My whole life and business has always been about surrounding myself with people that know more than I do. I surround myself with smart, intelligent, and confident people. My team is everything.

When you were starting off, you were originally a designer, and you started with boutique printing as well.

I graduated from Parson’s in ‘99 and started my business in my apartment that summer. I’ve never worked for anybody else. I hand-dyed every single piece that I sold. I had the luck of meeting Patricia Field, who at the time was styling the first season of Sex and the City. I was bringing clothes to a friend’s store and I ran into her. She liked what I had on and she ended up buying my bag of clothes for the show. That gave me the confidence to go to stores. I would show up to stores with a bag of clothes and was like, “I would like to see your buyer.” I was like a hustler. I had a lot of confidence at that time because I had nothing to lose. What’s a “no”? I already have nothing, if you say “no” I’m not losing anything. I was ballsy. More than I would be right now.

How would you see a “no” now?

I would see “no” as a “yes” somewhere else. I’ve been in phases of totally embracing “yes”. I’m a huge “yes” person. 15 years later, I understand the brilliance of “no”. They’re basically the same thing, “no” and “yes”. A “no” creates a “yes”. Saying “no” to things is really saying “yes” to yourself or “yes” to other situations. Evaluate it; it’s guiding you. Is this “no” asking me to work harder for a “yes” or is this “no” a sign to redirect and find what’s right?

What was your breakdown to breakthrough moment?

It’s not one particular moment. I’m constantly in them, just in different proportions. I’ve always loved that expression that necessity is the mother of invention. In the most challenging, devastating places, you have the most opportunity to grow. I’m either going to die here or I’m going to be amazing. I’m going to be that much better and bigger and stronger and have a better grasp on what I’m doing. I’ve been able to grow in those times.

You’ve been able to turn moments of breakdown into breakthroughs.

Just fixing things. I talk to my husband about it now, and it’s like…wow. He saw me through times when we’d get close to a show and I would come home and cry at night. I would feel so overwhelmed like I can’t do this anymore. We’ve been together now for 11 years so he’s seen so much. Now it’s a different thing. Around a show time, I’ll come home like “I got this”.

Do you think you needed to have a few breakdowns under your belt?

Everybody does. Who are you without them? It’s those deep heartbreaks that lead to breakthrough. In the beginning days of Circle, my first line, I used to use these narratives that were always based in emotional aspects. One whole collection was “a broken heart is fertile ground”. It’s like phoenix energy. When things breaks down, when something dies, it’s the most fertile time to do something bigger than you ever were. It’s the time when the greatest change can happen. Embrace the broken heart. Embrace the breakdown. Hang in there and do it with your eyes open. You can become so much better.

Is there a mantra that you tell yourself, or a paradigm shift you’ve experienced?

The mantra would be “Let go”. What you want in life is what you have to give away. If you want money, you have to give away money. If you want love, you have to give love. By giving, you’re able to receive. That’s been a big shift, to understand that. It’s a really challenging thing.

What legacy do you wish to leave behind?

I am finally getting to this place where I have this voice that people listen to. I want to inspire girls, women, human beings! You don’t have to be a millionaire to create change. You can do it. I’m evolving into this other place, where I’m here to be beyond a fashion brand. It’s not just about having a business; I need to really help people. I’m figuring that out now—how I can be the most helpful as far as the way I’m running my business. It’s the beginning of really reevaluating my existence here.

My legacy—I want to be a good mother. I want to raise up a beautiful boy and make him a beautiful man. I want people to feel good. I want to be happy. I want to lead by the example of happiness. I want to continue to love this really beautiful life that I have and not get caught up in what is not important.

What would name the chapter based on this year of your life?

2015 is “The Beginning”, 2014: “The Climb”.

Mara shows us the incredible power of shifting perspective. By changing “no” into “yes” and letting go of what we can’t control, we can pave our own paths to success. With steadfastness and an open mind, Mara has become a catalyst for change.

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