Maria McManus’s whole ethos revolves around sustainability and the environment, but it was also the unexpected inspiration behind her very colorful and joyful resort collection. “A while back there was a conversation about the desert bloom in California; how there was so much rain over the winter in the deserts that masses of wildflowers bloomed,” the designer said during an appointment in her Manhattan showroom. She was “intrigued” and kept researching it, eventually coming across the Desert X installation by Diana Campbell. “She uses art as a way to look around the world and try to understand the world,” McManus added, clearly finding a common thread with her own practice. “So that was the genesis of the collection; the desert vibe influenced the color palette.” Shades of “tan and sand” laid the groundwork for pieces in bright turquoise and lilac.
Despite its lofty inspiration, McManus’s resort collection is grounded in supremely wearable pieces in her signature eco-conscious materials: the desert blooms manifested in a floral print on lilac cotton that she turned into an easy pair of pajama-esque trousers, a shirt dress, and a cool bandana. Other standouts included a white coat in a textured organic cotton that resembled fur but had the ease and comfort of a bathrobe, a long-sleeve maxi turtleneck knit dress (made from 80% FSC-certified viscose), and a double-breasted corduroy suit in ecru made from “partially organic cotton.”
She also had a terrific pair of flat-front leather trousers (yes, real leather), that are LWG-certified. “It just means the least amount of chemicals are used, and the ones used aren’t as invasive on the environment; and the people working in the tannery are paid a fair wage,” she explained. “I think there’s still so much more that can be done in leather, but for sure I’d rather use leather than polyester.”
Elsewhere, it’s her knits that continue to be highlights: Sweaters, cardigans, and dresses made from wool have a hand as soft as cashmere. A turquoise sweater comes with slits underneath the arms that allows it to also be worn “as a cape,” another turtleneck sweater and dress feature an interesting asymmetrical tie-detail at the waist, which elevates the every-day basic into something more formal and elegant. An aran knit vest in lilac wool was light as air, and had a youthful look when worn with pleated khaki wide-leg trousers. “The wool is cradle to cradle certified, so they can trace the source where it comes from and make sure that everybody is treated ethically and fair,” McManus explained. “It’s Mulesing Free certified as well, which means the animals aren’t hurt. And the mill in Italy takes sustainability extremely seriously, so all their electricity is either hydro- or solar-powered.” Their appeal instantly doubled.