Let’s talk eco… with Maren of MAINSEAM, Germany

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With MAINSEAM, Maren founded her own upcycling fashion label in 2014. For this purpose, she makes new, high-quality fashion from used, unwanted garments. In this interview, she gives insights into the creative upcycling process, explains where she gets the materials from and how her customers tick.

Dear Maren, You are a graphic designer by profession. How did you come up with an upcycling fashion label?

M A R E N Until I opened my shop in Mainz in April 2014, I worked full-time as a graphic designer. I was happy in my job, but still something was missing: my own fashion project. Already as a child I wanted to become a fashion designer and even during my studies my projects were linked to fashion. Fashion has always been the common thread in my life. So I thought, if not now, when? I put my work as a graphic designer on ice for a while, founded MAINSEAM and opened my shop in Mainz. In the meantime I do not have a shop anymore, but the basis for my label is set. At the moment, I dedicate about 20% of my working time to MAINSEAM, but this should become more in the near future.

What is special about upcycled fashion for you?

M A R E N I think it’s great to work with your hands. And to make something beautiful out of old clothes is a real kick for me. The clothes I use as a starting material arrive here with a character – because they were worn, washed and loved. A whole lot of inspiration comes with it. For me, it’s like painting with fabrics. I do not sew because of the fashion, but because of the creative process behind it and the variety that goes with it. It’s great that the interest in upcycled fashion is increasing in the population. In my opinion, it is still a unique selling point that makes sustainable fashion easier to get noticed.

Where do you get the materials for your upcycled garments?

M A R E N From the flea market and donations. Many people in the neighborhood bring me their no longer worn clothes over. However, if I have a special design idea in mind, then I go to flea markets and look specifically for the materials in the desired colors or materials together.

Which materials do you particularly enjoy working with?

M A R E N I especially like jeans and old wool sweaters. But I also create a lot out of old cotton or linen shirts. I also use newly purchased organic cotton for sleeve pieces. The reason for this is that often the donated long sleeve shirts are made of cotton jersey. But that cannot be easily upcycled. That’s why it’s better to work with organic cotton right away.

Do you manufacture all the clothes for MAINSEAM yourself? How long do you need to do that?

M A R E N I make everything myself and each piece is unique. Shirts and skirts are relatively fast. A basic shirt, for example, I can do in two hours. For coats, jackets and dresses I need more than a week though. Because the cutting is very time-consuming. If I have cut a piece, I have to look carefully, which of the scraps fit in there. And in terms of color, of course, it must be consistent. It’s like a big puzzle.

Your collection has in my opinion a clear signature. What inspiration is behind it?

M A R E N In fact, I try to create a distinctive recognition factor with each of my collections. My last collection was called “Crystals”. It makes sense to introduce the segmentation of the cuts as a style feature. And this is also recognizable across the collection.

Which customers would you like to attract with your upcycled fashion?

M A R E N I think my garments are looking for their owners. I have customers from every age group. These are mainly people who value sustainability. But some also come via the design aspect to MAINSEAM. By the way, I also produce clothing on customer request. Because my collections are more like a sample. Other color combinations and slight adjustments to the cut are possible on all garments, if desired. All my customers appreciate that they do not get anything off-the-shelf with me, but always a very individual piece of clothing.

How often do you develop new designs?

M A R E N Once a year I create a larger collection. In addition, I usually develop three to four additional collection pieces throughout the year. There are always various short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and skirts, as well as a design for dresses and coats in different variations. Pants are not included in every collection. Because they are very complex, especially in different sizes.

Do you have a current favorite piece?

M A R E N Yes, my favorite thing right now is the Knot Dress “Kosy”. It’s from my new collection, which I’ll be putting online soon. I have developed a completely new design for this. I work a lot with binding techniques, like with this dress, to be able to serve several sizes with one piece. In addition, I find the culotte very nice, which I also offer for the first time in my collection.

Can you imagine producing upcycled fashion as well as eco fashion from new materials in the future?

M A R E N I have already made a few pieces that were completely made of new organic cotton. I do that again and again when I have a special idea that I really want to implement, but have no old fabrics available. These are usually graphic things like color blocking or embroidery. Although upcycled fashion is my passion, I can imagine going even further in this direction in the future.

Speaking of “eco”, how sustainable are you?

M A R E N Sustainability is very important to me not only in my fashion but also in everyday life. I have been vegan for seven years. In addition, I only use vegan natural cosmetics. When I need something, I usually shop at flea markets. Especially with leather goods I pay attention, because as a vegan I only want to use used leather. Most of my furniture is vintage furniture from the flea market, too.

Maren Schmitt
The graphic and fashion designer lives and works in her hometown Heppenheim, Germany. The studio for MAINSEAM is located in a restored barn in the yard of her parents’ house. There she designs individual upcycling clothing. Maren enjoys spending her free time with her boyfriend or with dancing and martial arts, painting and illustration.