Behind the Collection: Maria Cornejo

mariacornejo_portrait More than Zero
by Ami Kealoha
Since 1997, Chilean-born designer Maria Cornejo has thoughtfully plotted her own uncharted course in the world of modern fashion. Celebrated for modern, sometimes playful details balanced with urban common sense, Maria's Spring 2006 collection for her label Zero exhibits all the contemporary swagger and functionality that have made unwavering fans of visionaries like Cindy Sherman and Sofia Coppola. On a recent visit to Maria's NoLita shop, the designer (in her own words) gave Refinery29 a sneak-peek of her latest collection.
1. Much Mucha
"[It's] inspired by the sinuous lines, organic textures, and rustic metallics of the Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha," says Maria. Unconventional combinations of oxidized cotton and linen lurex in brassy tones and "vertigris" (the pale green of weathered copper) often suggest the fluid shapes and muted earth hues that informed Mucha's work. Mimicking lyrical nouveau shapes, Maria took an ivory linen wrap dress and embroidered it with delicate leaf-shaped patterns in rich chocolate brown.
2. Femmetroplis
Muse to many, British actress Tilda Swinton's daring, offbeat presence shows up in a drapey black sheath; sexy, understated, and tough in four-ply silk. Maria explains, "Working with someone as strong and with as much passion for what she does is always inspiring."
3. City by the Sea
Sand-colored bamboo fabric (a linen-like material actually made from the plant's fibers), wide-legged, single-pleated "Kempo" pants, and watery aquas channel a laid-back beachside vibe. The breezy, resort feel likely owes a debt to Maria's spring trip to Barcelona; she credits the Art Nouveau architecture there as an influence, as well.
4. Lush for Life
Sensuous, tactile pieces make up the bulk of the collection, evolving, as Maria explains, "from fabric and texture. It's the fabric that dictates line and cut." A wrap jersey top knots simply in the center and is one of many separates that mix effortlessly and add textural pleasure to the already tactile collection.
5. Fashion = Fun
Maria's trademark elements of surprise emerge in pieces like a slim skirt with a single front kick pleat that remains current with a hem that subtly dips lower in the back. In the flirty frock and elsewhere "shapes [that] have a very modern perspective and play with volume, but there is whimsy," as she explains, adding, "because summer is not as serious as winter, I love taking a playful approach to textures and colors."
Zero is located at 225 Mott Street and is also available at
What elements provided inspiration for pioneering designer Maria Cornejo's line Zero? Spanish Architecture, Czech Painters, and British actresses just to name a few.

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