Maria Dora's Well-Read Design Process

Maria Dora’s sartorial philosophy is universal. “Everyone has their favorite sweater,” she stated in our interview below, "I think that feeling is universal.”

As we find ourselves at the peak of cold-weather dressing, we found an even bigger desire to speak with Maria about designing during what can be at times, a tumultuous season. While her focal point as a designer rests in creating sought-after staples (read: cozy knits, functional layering pieces and gorgeous craftsmanship) her point of differentiation as a designer is rooted in research. As many of her peers start their work with a sketch, she finds solace and strength in having information, trends and visual aids translate into the foundation of her collections. 

With this in mind, we also wanted to delve deeper into how Los Angeles has contributed to Maria’s thoughtful approach to design. In addition to our chat, Maria also kindly curated three local bookstores that always seem to provide a little inspiration and an empowering starting point for her to find a creative center. Discover more from our conversation below.

Hello! My name is Maria Dora and I am a knitwear designer.

I am also a mother to an energetic preschooler named Ruby and a Turkish Angora cat named William Murderface (weird name, long story). I live in a tiny town called Via Verde that only has three stoplights and one gas station - it's my little piece of quiet in the crazy sprawl that is Los Angeles. It takes me about 30 minutes to get to downtown, but it is definitely worth it.  Besides knitting, I love film photography and I just started taking boxing classes. It is crazy hard, but I enjoy it. For me, it's the little victories that count. 

Based on your professional experience, what are three tools/resources every fashion designer should have under their belt?

Be kind, be patient and be resourceful. You never know who you'll come across, and know that things never arrive on time in fashion... you have to be able to work around that, no matter what's going on. 


The Last Book Store

Address: 453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013

"This is a used bookstore, similar to the Strand in New York. It's a beautiful, massive space and if you're willing to dig, you'll find some incredible items. I found a pristine copy of "Amber, Guinevere and Kate Photographed by Craig McDean: 1993-2005" here a few weeks ago, and bought it immediately. I love the welcoming atmosphere here as well."

"This is a used bookstore, similar to the Strand in New York. It's a beautiful, massive space and if you're willing to dig, you'll find some incredible items. I found a pristine copy of "Amber, Guinevere and Kate Photographed by Craig McDean: 1993-2005" here a few weeks ago, and bought it immediately. I love the welcoming atmosphere here as well."

We love that your approach to design is rooted in research. Take us through this process a little bit more.

Before Parsons, I was a Political Science major at the University of Iowa. My professors really ingrained in me the whole concept of research and discovery being a constant cycle, and I think that was my biggest takeaway from being there. 

Projects always start with moodboards, and I usually have at least two: one for techniques/shapes and the other for the overall influence. Once I start accumulating photos, I try to find the references behind them... it can be a bit obsessive, haha. I've spent hours looking at one thing or another, but I really like to know the backstory to my references. Once I'm satisfied with where the research is going, I go back and choose a few focal points. The collection will build from there. 

How has being apart of the Brand Assembly community contributed to your life as a designer?

Hillary and Alex are amazing - they are the most supportive people I've met in the fashion industry. They both truly care about the Brand Assembly designers, and that sincerity is felt in everything they do. It is comforting to know they're in your corner. 


Arcana: Books on the Arts

Address: 8675 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

"I stumbled across this art bookstore because my roommate works at a photo studio in the same complex, the Helms Bakery. It's an amazing place, and they have the most helpful labeling system I've ever seen. Anything you can want art, photography and architecture-wise is there. This isn't a place that people run in and out of...people linger over books for hours here."

"I stumbled across this art bookstore because my roommate works at a photo studio in the same complex, the Helms Bakery. It's an amazing place, and they have the most helpful labeling system I've ever seen. Anything you can want art, photography and architecture-wise is there. This isn't a place that people run in and out of...people linger over books for hours here."

Since the brand’s inception can you think of any one design milestone that’s really captured the essence of what you’re trying to do as designer?

For me, working with Trish Summerville (costume designer of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) really started my career... she had me create a few knitwear pieces for the film, and I completely fell in love with the craft. I kept getting knitwear referrals for films after that, and the hands-on experience has made me a much better designer. 

What do you assemble daily? 

I have a ton of vintage knitting books that I've collected over the years... I probably look at one or two of them a day. Whenever I see something new, I try to find the corresponding technique and that's really strengthened my design vocabulary. 


GATHER DTLA

Address: 453 S Spring St #M1, Los Angeles, CA 90013

"Funny enough, there's also a hand knitting store on The Last Bookstore's mezzanine level. It is called Gather DTLA, and is separate from the bookstore in terms of hours and operation. It is a nice place to browse for hand-dyed yarns if you need a break from digging through books. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable as well, which is a plus."

"Funny enough, there's also a hand knitting store on The Last Bookstore's mezzanine level. It is called Gather DTLA, and is separate from the bookstore in terms of hours and operation. It is a nice place to browse for hand-dyed yarns if you need a break from digging through books. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable as well, which is a plus."

How would you characterize the contemporary fashion community in Los Angeles and how has it influenced the success of your brand?

It's amazing - I think it is a really special time to be a designer in Los Angeles. We have a supportive and diverse community, and that is invaluable. There is a lot of my story that couldn't have happened anywhere else, and I'm grateful to the community here for that. 

How would you describe the juxtaposition between your affinity for knits and life in California? Why do you think these two elements work so well for you? 

Believe it or not, it does get cold here! Nights can be super chilly and it's always windy because of the ocean. But I also think Californians know a good sweater when they see one. The feedback I get from women here is always so incredible - everyone has their favorite sweater, and I think that feeling is universal. 


Discover more from Maria Dora on social at @maria_dora and follow what we're assembling daily at @brandassembly. What are your go-to's sources of inspiration? Leave us a note in the comments below!