Craftsmanship, Culture and Consciousness with MARIAZ
Columbian born artist Maria Zambrano founded MARIAZ to start a dialogue around craftsmanship, culture and consciousness. The lush, undulating hills of Columbia are home to over three quarters of the world’s emeralds; as with most natural resources, this has prompted a long history of environmental degredation. Designed using only recycled materials, MARIAZ work with byproducts of the emerald industry, repurposing the leftover grit from the mining process that would otherwise be discarded. We find out more about the concept and construction that makes MARIAZ so unique.
What does sustainability mean to you?
For me it means functional, timeless, genderless, season-less, and well designed products. I intend to work around these principles every day, improving as I go so hopefully my work speaks for itself.
How did Mariaz begin?
MARIAZ started as a swimwear brand, mainly focused on making accessories and fastenings, we progressively moved into making swimwear more as an artefact, rather than a piece of clothing. Whilst doing that I started a masters in jewellery design and this was the turning point, when MARIAZ transformed into what it is today. My focus is jewellery, but I am a multidisciplinary designer.
I have always felt the need to involve sustainable materials and design-thinking through my work and user experience, I have always been drawn to functional and utilitarian objects because of the potential for transformation from their original context of use. Chains and tools are a constant source of inspiration and are the thinking medium I use to make transformable jewellery. My idea was and still is to build a format that juxtaposes different materials, techniques, and ideas. Almost like ‘building blocks’ that people can collect and express themselves with in different scenarios.
That initial idea of making fasteners still exists in MARIAZ today, only it differs in that is not just for swimwear.
What cultural influences exist in your home country that encourage or prevent sustainability?
It’s only a matter of time until we all fully normalise the word ‘sustainability’ into everything we do. There are still taboos with the idea of wearing other people’s clothes, but promoting clothing and object exchanges at least within micro-circles of family and friends, would be a step forward and a significant contribution.
Can you tell us more about the story behind your garments?
We produce on demand to minimise overproduction. Our pieces are made in Italy, Colombia and the United Kingdom. We work with recycled materials and are very involved in working with emerald byproducts, the leftover grit from emerald mining, which we source from Colombia.
And a little bit about the community that surrounds the brand?
The core idea of MARIAZ is to link people, craftsmanship, design and cultures through jewellery. We are trying to build a community of participation. MARIAZ jewellery is modular and therefore has a format where the user co-creates the piece with the designer. In addition to that, the designer collaborates with arts and crafts to make these modular components. The whole process gravitates around connectedness through the practice of building chain jewellery.
In your eyes, what is most misunderstood about sustainability in fashion?
Some people think it is a selling point. It shouldn’t be. It needs to be there genuinely, in visible and invisible form. It is not to make a brand ‘look better’.
What is your advice towards achieving a more sustainable wardrobe?
To encourage the reuse of garments and accessories in general. Also to mend more and be more aware of buying quality over quantity.
What resources have you found most helpful for staying informed about sustainability in the fashion space?
Design driven media and socials provide accurate information of what is happening, but we still need to do our homework. We are still in a consumer culture but also a ‘woke’ culture. I believe we are slowly changing towards bettering our perception around what to buy, and where from.
Tell us about a day in the studio?
It is difficult to summarise into specifics. I jump backwards and forwards from design to creating samples, and then to production and brainstorming.
What can we expect from your brand over the next year?
Hopefully more circular and resource efficiency design and production. And of course fun and interesting ideas.
In your own words, what makes your brand unique?
I believe it is the whole composition of it. I merge modular functionality with my own material developments in the context of jewellery. Everything from paper to final product has particular aspects that are not automated, it embodies the presence of human touch and has my aesthetic imprinted throughout. Unique or not unique, MARIAZ as a brand and as a concept, is a reflection of my personal process.