Meet the Fashion Designer who Designed a Way of Life

Meet the Fashion Designer who Designed a Way of Life
    Picture this- a simple design, a love heart with horns. It’s such a beautifully pure image that when a friend offered to sell it to Maria Malo ten years ago, she snatched it up. She instantly saw its potential. A decade on and Mala Mujer, the brand created by Maria using the horned heart as its logo, is recognized across Europe for its sexy, comfortable and elegant beachwear. “The heart with the horn represents passion with courage,’ she explains. ‘Both the red and the horns are symbols that have very strong connections with Spain so that was important to me but also I love the idea of marrying the bravery of the bull with the subtle sexy heart.” Originally from Madrid, Maria moved to the south of Spain to get away from the hectic pace of city life and spend time in nature, surfing and horse riding. Little did she know that fate had a different plan in mind. Buying her friend’s logo was to radically change her life. Using the logo, her first move was create t-shirts. Having surfed for years, she knew that the clothes available in surf shops was mostly for men and designed to be practical and functional. Maria wanted to create a brand that targeted women- clothes that were made from cotton, suitable for the beach but also comfortable and elegant. She started with t-shirts and sold them easily to surf shops in Spain and Italy. From there she moved onto designing dresses, bikinis, shorts and tops. A collection was born. Her inspiration for the clothes is simple. “I try to bring some of the movement of nature into the clothes. They are free-flowing, no formal cuts. I use happy colors which to me represent the freedom of life.” Despite her spiritual motivations, Maria is also practical with her designs. “When a woman comes on holiday and is on the beach she wants to be comfortable but she wants to be able to wear the same dress to a bar or to dinner and still feel sexy. That’s the ethos behind the brand. These are clothes that can be worn all day.” Maria’s fast success is all the more remarkable considering she had no training as a fashion designer. “I never had a plan,” she says. “Opportunities presented themselves and if they felt right I went with them. That’s how I like to live my life.” Mala Mujer Living Things really started to change for her when she rented a little shop and the fashion magazine Elle came along to do an interview with her. She smiles when she thinks back on the experience. “We used chairs as shelves. We stacked the chairs on top of each other and created the effect of shelves placing the t- shirts on the seats. People loved it but we were just trying to save money and be inventive with what we had.” After the article appeared in Elle, customers came in droves to sample Maria’s unique style of beach life clothes. By 2005 she opened a second, much bigger, shop. The Mala Mujer line was available in 300 shops around Spain. Shops in Italy, Holland and France also began carrying it. Maria was hosting regular shows and became a frequent feature in top fashion magazines. Today Maria, a relentless ideas person, has shifted the focus of the business to combat Europe’s economic crisis. She’s created Mala Mujer Living and moved much of the business online to MalaMujer.es (www.malamujer.es). “Mala Mujer Living is about bringing the outdoor ethos of the brand indoors. It’s about a more natural way of living. In the new shop we have furniture, baby clothes, fabrics, jewellery, bedclothes and tableware.” Talking to Maria and looking at her designs, it’s clear that she puts love into all her creations but it’s impossible to ignore the bull-like bravery of her heart. When I ask her about the favourite part of her job, she says without hesitation, “the chance to create.” then adds with a smile. “and the satisfaction of a job done well.”

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