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    Celebrating 30 Years in Fashion Design | Maria Pinto

    This year, Maria is celebrating 30 years in the fashion industry - a major milestone and a wonderful opportunity to reminisce about her work. Here are some of the highlights of her exceptional career so far:




    1991: Opened Maria Pinto Designs
    I sold my luxury accessories to Ultimo in Chicago, then to high-end specialty stores like Barney’s and Bergdorf Goodman. 


    1998: Won the Gold Coast Fashion Award
    I won this very special award as part of Children’s Memorial Hospital’s annual fundraiser. The event introduced five new designers at a luncheon, and I was one of them and won the very prestigious award, it was such an honor to win - Donna Karan was a past winner, so I was in great company!



    2002: Designed Costumes for the Joffrey Ballet’s Ricordi Per Due
    This was one of my first and best opportunities to collaborate with other creative people to produce something special. My costume designs had to integrate with the dancers, the music, and the choreographer’s vision. It was so inspiring and such a nice departure from my usual process in the fashion space.



    2004: Dressing Michelle Obama
    One of my clients referred Michelle Obama to me. She wore several of my pieces at campaign events, the Democratic National Convention, and at the White House; in 2014, she invited me to her Celebration of Design event. My clothing is made for women just like her, who want to look and feel great in total comfort!


    2008: Designed Costumes for the Joffrey Ballet’s Age of Innocence

    Edwaard Liang’s masterful, contemporary choreography gave me the chance to do refreshing design work outside of the classical, formal context we associate with most ballet. This was a forward-thinking production and it was an honor to be a part of it. 



    2009: Opened the Maria Pinto Boutique

    This was my first store! I found it so liberating to be able to speak directly to my customers without the store buyer middlemen. And I was able to present my work in a cohesive way. This was the moment where I felt like I really took control of my own destiny!


    2009: Won the Legend of Fashion Award from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
    It was such an honor to win this award. I loved that this was from my alma mater, right here in my home of Chicago; the School of the Art Institute always considers candidates from around the world, so I felt especially honored to be selected.
    2009: Won the Anti-Defamation League’s Women of Achievement Award
    This award recognized me as a leader in my community and field. Of course, it is an honor to be recognized in this way; I do feel that I am a real champion of women!


    2012: Co-curated the “Fashion and the Field Museum” Exhibit at the Field Museum
    The Field Museum wanted to create new exhibitions that weren’t curated in the usual way, in order to explore unexpected interpretations. When I received a phone call from my good friend Alaka Wali, inviting me to explore their archives and co-curate an exhibition, I was excited beyond words. I created thought-provoking vignettes by pairing pieces from my own collection with pieces from their archives. The exhibit was a hit, and I was so inspired while creating it!


    2013: Launched M2057 by Maria Pinto
    After years working in luxury, I was ready to create something fresh, accessible, and new that still drew upon the principles of luxury design that had been my foundation for years. M2057 was the perfect opportunity to create exquisitely well-made and thoughtful clothing that wasn’t expensive or delicate the way luxury fashion is. I raised $274K on Kickstarter to bring this concept of “deconstructed couture” to life!


    2016: Featured in the 25th Anniversary in Fashion Design Retrospective at Chicago’s City Gallery
    The head of DCASE, Michelle Boone, invited me to celebrate my 25th anniversary as a designer with an exhibit. The gallery was a little jewel box, and I wanted to take full advantage of it. We displayed large images photographed by Sandro Miller, of a special leather collection designed just for this celebration, as well as 12 looks from my archives displayed on mannequins. It was beautiful!


    2016: Designs Featured on Fox Broadcasting’s TV Drama Series, Empire
    The producers of the show Empire reached out to me to dress some of the cast. Three outfits were featured. Another great experience!


    2017: Received an Honorary Doctorate from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
    This was such a special moment for me! I was in the company of Roberta Smith (art critic of the New York Times and the wonderful painter, Kerry James Marshall) an experience unlike any other!
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