Maria Cornejo spent spring on the road, visiting stores across the US – Austin, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit. In Denver, she hosted a fashion show at the Museum of Contemporary Art with her retail partner Max, and a ZMC superfan introduced herself. “She said, ‘I’m so happy in this dress,'” Cornejo recalled during a recent visit to the studio. “That’s why we’re still here, we’re always listening to our customers.”
Cornejo’s business turnaround this year25, a no-show Milestones are not noted. During this quarter century, the fashion industry has become increasingly consolidated, with resources concentrated in the hands of a few superbrands, which in turn command the lion’s share of retail and e-retail real estate, thereby attracting the attention of the fashion media. To stand out in this space, as an independent business, designers need to have a unique selling point – a voice.
This is something Cornejo has never been short of, as a visit to the shelves in her showroom reminds us. She resurrected a circular grid print created a decade ago at another museum (San Francisco’s De Young Museum) for this resort collection, but it would be a mistake to call it the hottest collection. Cornejo has a very rich vocabulary. As with most seasons, she worked here in her long-loved, easy-to-wear, elegant circle and triangle shapes.
The novelty comes from the fabric, which only gets more interesting as time passes. Available in a circular grid print, it comes in different colorways for the different regions where her collection is sold. We New Yorkers would get the black version with fire orange and yellow dots, while the white version would be better in the South and West, she said. There’s a soft cotton matelassé tweed whose vibes vary by color; white for beach wedding guests and a two-tone brown and black option that looks perfect for a holiday party. Cut from stretchy luxe velvet in citrine and amethyst jewel tones, this caftan is slightly elasticated at the waist to define your figure.
As far as fun goes, this season’s top contender is ZMC’s new offering: the plunging V-neck sleeveless skirt. “They want to show off their legs and look sexy,” explains Cornejo. Been listening.