Founder Profile: Miranda Bennett of Miranda Bennett Studio - Austin
Hi Miranda! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Miranda Bennett and I am the Founder and Creative Director of Miranda Bennett Studio, a collection of modern, plant-dyed apparel made in the USA.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I studied fashion and art history at Eugene Lang College and Parsons School of Design in New York. While in school, I became fascinated with the idea of returning to a pre-industrialized model for apparel production, and began hand making the clothing that ultimately became my first collection. While still in school, I worked at a boutique in the West Village called Albertine that championed the work of young, independent designers. My boss there was very supportive of my work and ultimately, my first line launched there. I also interned at Libertine. I appreciated their unconventional approach to creating a clothing line (using vintage that they distressed & screenprinted) that still fit comfortably in the confines of high fashion. Anna Wintour anointed them by attending their first runway show, which led to their being sold at all of the big, premium retailers at that time.
When did you begin working with textiles and fashion?
At a very young age I began assembling dresses for my dolls, then as a teen I began constructing much of my own clothing. My natural dye practice began in 2013 when I put my line on hiatus and rented a tiny studio in an artist community. It was born from a desire to reconnect with process, work with more meaning, and ultimately, really served to reinvigorate my love of fashion.
At what point did you know you wanted to make your own line? How did Miranda Bennett Studio come to be?
Circling back to Albertine, where I worked in college, my boss had been following along with the work that I made and frequently wore to my shifts at the shop. She offered to allow me to bring pieces in on a consignment basis, and then eventually offered to host my senior thesis collection that featured my handmade clothing in tandem with a collection of work that I curated from other designers. This included Susan Cianciolo, Christina Hattler (now of Mexchic) and my dearest friend, Pamela Johnston of Plume.
It honestly was not my intention to jump directly into having my own line immediately after college, but the trunk show resulted in press and my first wholesale orders -- suddenly I was confronted with a very real vision of how the project could become a sustainable reality.
Were you always interested in creating garments with natural dye? How has your process changed over time?
As I mentioned earlier, I came to natural dyes after years of having my line. In the very beginning - going back to that very first collection - I handmade everything, then as the volume increased, I began producing in the Garment Center and with an independent contractor in New York. In 2012 I hit pause, and came back slowly to the process of interacting with my line by exploring natural dyes and sewing new samples myself. As that evolved into Miranda Bennett Studio, I ultimately have had to delegate both of these tasks to others, but this time it is internal, to a regular team that we work with both in-studio and off-site with weekly visits.
Could you tell us more about #thefutureiscircular?
I would love to! #thefutureiscircular was born out of a desire to close the loop on where our apparel ends up at the end of its life cycle. From a principles standpoint, it is our way of acknowledging that as manufactures, we are have a responsibility to own the waste that we create and owe it to our consumers to offer channels for mindful disposal. On a practical level, the program works like this: no matter where an MBS item was purchased, it can be sent back to us in exchange for 20% coupon, applicable to the entire cart of one purchase. We will then donate, repurpose into a new Zero Waste Item (currently, pillows, kid’s apparel and fabric boxes), recycle it into industrial rags with our Austin based partner, Josco or donate it to the Austin Area Quilt Guild.
What inspires your designs?
Considering how a woman wants to look and feel, being open to avenues of versatility, avoiding excessive textile waste, letting the fabric and the woman inside shine, doing more with less.
You take such strides to create an ethical, sustainable, and non wasteful business; what do you wish more people knew or understood about being conscious about their purchasing?
That perceptions of cost are quite deceiving. If you are paying $15 for a new garment, chances are a host of individuals and the environment were exploited in the process, ultimately making up the cost that was shaved off of the price that you paid.
I am a big believer in the cost per wear philosophy as well - and if you consider the amount of wear and the amount of meaning a thoughtfully made garment can give you, you may find that $200 or $300 garment actually rings in well under the $15 cost of that impulse buy that you wore one time.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
That we can always dig deeper into each area of our business and find a more meaningful and impactful way to work. There will alway be more that we can do, that keeps me engaged, curious, open and excited for the future.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Women being pitted against one another has been used to distract us from the depth of our power for far too long. I also think it is worth mentioning that often times, the inner voice that we have for evaluating other women is the same inner voice that we turn onto ourselves. If we are trained to see other women and pick them apart, strand by strand, chances are we are trained to do the same to ourselves when we look into the mirror. Conversely, if we train ourselves to see other women with gentle, open eyes, taking in the whole woman (not just the physical) - perhaps we will be able to see ourselves with the same kindness and holisticness.
In general, I find the notion of competition in the classical sense of “if they get x, y, z - I won’t be able to” antiquated. There are so many channels for success, for sharing, for doing the work that each of us is meant to do, that there is enough for everyone. Rising tides raise all ships.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
There are so many, too many, and it’s a beautiful problem! To set some parameters for myself, I will stick to those living and in my field. Lindsey Reif of Reif Haus - her designs are incredible and would you believe she still sews the majority of the collection herself?! Mandy Kordal of Kordal - she couldn’t be kinder or more talented, her knitwear and energy simply blow me away! Nikki Garcia of First Rite - the tailoring of her collection is out of this world, I cherish every piece I have of hers. Bonus, I often will dorkily fangirl other designers at trade shows and events, and when I did it to her, she couldn’t have been kinder or warmer (in contrast, one designer I tried to introduce myself to in order to compliment her line literally pretended I wasn’t standing right in front of her). Stephanie Beard of Esby - her clothing is so wearable and she is fun, funny and down to earth. I truly feel so lucky to have her as a neighbor here in Austin!
What have you learned from creating your own business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
It is always worth humbling yourself and letting other people in. There is so much more to be learned and accomplished when you ask for help rather than isolating yourself.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
Gosh, it’s hard - I still deal with this quite often. I don’t have one tried and true technique, but one thing that typically helps talking to the women on my team, telling them I need help; is unplugging from technology, social media specifically; reading a memoir and realizing how many ups and downs make up a life; spending time doing something with my hands whether it be cooking, gardening, or a small project - it’s a beautiful, slow and meditative process that brings me back to myself; hanging with my fiancé and our dogs - they always cheer me up and make me feel strong.