Maria Pinto | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Maria Pinto


Designer Maria Pinto ran her luxury label, Maria Pinto, for almost two decades, making a name for herself by clothing fashion icons such as First Lady Michelle Obama, Brooke Shields and Oprah Winfrey. She took a brief hiatus from designing her own line to serve as creative director for the department store Mark Shale, then launched the ready-to-wear label M2057. Pinto opened a showroom in her hometown of Chicago last year and hopes to expand to several other cities soon.

The Mistake: 

I closed [Maria Pinto] in 2010. And in 2011, I was invited to be creative director of Mark Shale. That experience gave me the opportunity to see collections and see what was in the space for a professional woman to shop.  

Seeing all that made me understand there was a need for [M2057], but it also made me recognize that designing is pretty much a lifeline, and nothing else I would do would ever come close to designing and creating a collection. 

I did this beautiful private labelit was a Mark Shale labelknitwear, so it gave me the satisfaction of creating. But I think the bigger challenge there was there's so many voices. How do you get past all the noise?  

If it's not moving, I see the signs really fast, and I think, "OK, time to move on." I'm not interested in staying in something for the sake of the security of staying in something. I want to be in something because I believe in it. And if it's going to continue to move and grow and evolve, then sign me up. As soon as I feel like it's stagnant waters—scary. That's scarier than living on the edge.  

I launched M2057 in 2012. Now it’s two and a half years into the brand and we have tremendous plans for the future, but there’s a little bit of an exhale. 

If it's going to continue to move and grow and evolve, then sign me up. 

The Lesson: 

When someone goes, "Oh, Maria, you're amazing at reinventing," I'm like, "Really? Not so much." That's called life—evolving. When you live in fear, you can't let yourself evolve. I think that's the hard part for a lot of people, particularly in corporate America.  

I think the idea of our lives is evolution—you evolve and you start to understand. I'm grateful that in the interim I had those experiences—to be creative director, to be able to look at collections from around the world, anything I wanted, anything I thought should be in this store as part of this curated new range of beautiful clothes.  

Where I'm at today, it's just the constant evolution of collecting ideas and listening and learning and never feeling so comfortable that you're not asking, "Can I do this better?"  

Follow Maria Pinto on Twitter at @mariapinto.

Pictured: Maria Pinto. | Photo courtesy of the designer. 

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