By Julia Cardi
Editorial photograph from Miranda’s website. Photo by Jackie Lee Young.
If Miranda Bennett could go back to when she was first designing clothes and tell herself one thing she wishes she’d known, she would remind herself that there’s no one right way of doing things.
Everything she learned in fashion school directed her toward working in the framework of the industry’s biggest names, with independent lines surviving on the edges of the industry. Miranda knew a highly corporate environment wasn’t for her, so her career as a designer has been defined by searching for what feels right for her, and through experience Miranda has gained confidence in the validity of her decisions.
For Miranda, finding her true north meant moving home to Austin after several years of having a clothing line in New York and checking off her career goals. She took time off and began experimenting with plant-based dyes without any pressure of what she might eventually turn the project into, and her desire to make clothing began to renew.
She’s grown the result, Miranda Bennett Studio, into a consciously produced women’s clothing line using plant dyes and all-natural fibers, produced by an all-woman team in Austin. In advance of Thursday’s trunk show at Goldyn, Miranda took time to chat about the versatility of her clothing, the importance of empowering women, and the perfect white T-shirt.
Describe the ideal person who wears the line.
I found that our customer ranges from teenagers to women in their 80s. And I think because it is a very versatile aesthetic, it really lends itself to all different kinds of people that want to style and wear these pieces in a way that makes them the focal point, or that allows them the versatility to, let’s say, wear it with a different type of accessory … in order to make it really suit who they are and what their aesthetic is.
With your current clothing line, what did you feel like was missing from lines already out there that you’re trying to fulfill with yours?
I would say it was having the versatility of a garment that could really journey with me from day to evening. For a long time when I first moved back to Austin I would ride my bike everywhere, or I did freelance work styling, which was very physical. And there was something I really was missing in the clothing that was available to me, in the sense that I couldn’t find things I could move freely in [and] do all of the different things I would do in a day, but then also feel confident to then transition into having dinner or drinks or going to an opening after work without always having the opportunity to go home and kind of hit reset.
And also just having something that I felt could be a go-to piece, no matter what my size [was] or where I was in the course of a month, or just as other parts of my life were sort of shifting around.
I had pieces that I loved from a more aspirational standpoint. But I was really hoping to see things that were super versatile without feeling too basic.
Tell me about the decision to use plant dyes and all-natural fibers.
I’ve always actually worked just with natural fibers, because for me, well, from both an aesthetic and personal preference, I like the feel, the breathability, and just the natural origin of natural fibers. I’d had a more traditional clothing line in New York, and when I moved back to Austin, which is where I’m originally from, I took time off of having my line and having any sort of commercial pressure from that project.
I got an artist studio in a place here in town, and I started to self-educate with plant-based dyes, more just from a “getting my hands back in the process” motivation.
And then as I started to work further with it, my desire to make clothing kind of re-emerged. And having the process and the ability to come up with colors that doing small-scale batch size was giving me, I found really inspiring and motivating. The idea of sort of bringing that to play in scale for a clothing collection was a very interesting and fun challenge for me to consider.
It’s definitely a challenge; it’s not the easiest thing that you can do – put dyeing to scale. It’s neither cheap nor simple, but I think the end result is really beautiful and special.
How do you resist the pressure within the fashion industry to come out with several collections per year (pre-fall, resort, pre-spring, etc.)?
My initial desire with the collection was actually not even to consider our releases in terms of the typical seasons. In a perfect world, I would just be releasing things as [the team] came up with formulas, or found a new fabric we loved, or a new style.
But for me, it’s just aligning with those two seasons has kind of been the compromise on that because we have to meet our buyers where they are and play fair with the overall system that we exist within. But we actually offer our collection to buyers in a bit of an atypical format because we produce here with a local team and can do things year-round. We give deliveries that allow to basically meet all of those different market cycles, so people that meet us at market twice a year, we’re actually delivering to them throughout the season.
Describe the perfect white T-shirt.
I struggle with T-shirts. I often find that the neck is too high, so usually if it’s me wearing it, I would just immediately be stretching the neck out with my hands or cutting the ring off altogether.
Definitely something with a lower, kind of easier neck. A really light weight, feels like it’s been washed a million times. In general, I don’t wear a lot of jersey, because I don’t like things that are clingy. So something that has a little bit of a looser, easier drape. Definitely 100 percent cotton, or I love a linen knit, if I am going to wear a knit.
Miranda Bennett (far left) and her team in Austin. Photo by Leah Muse.
What about having an all-woman team is important to you?
I was raised in the company of women – single mom, sisters. A lot of the mentors that I’ve had have been women. It wasn’t my conscious decision; it’s not that I wouldn’t hire a man.
I looked around one day, though, and I realized that just naturally that was the makeup of my team. I honestly am just blown away all the time by the strength and dynamic nature and the versatility of the women that I work with.
I think often in the workplace, women are underpaid, undervalued and are not brought up to ask for the things that men are brought up to ask for. So in another sense, this for me feels like a really exciting opportunity to empower and create positions for women.
Click here to shop Miranda Bennett Studio at Goldyn, and come by the store Thursday from 4-7 p.m. to check out even more styles and meet Miranda herself.