As part of our series featuring inspirational female founders, we recently caught up with the founder of fashion label Mara Girone Simple Sophistication, to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.
I am Mara, originally from Italy. I am a passionate traveler and a dreamer, advocate for feminism, and an artist, specialising in hand-embroidery, I am a podcast host and a writer. I have lived and worked across the globe from Italy to Mexico, Portugal to Greece and London and have been inspired by my experiences around the world and by the people I met and their stories.
As a child I wanted to be a writer and found my own publishing house. In fact, prior to opening Mara Girone Simple Sophistication I founded and successfully directed my own publishing house. That means that the little spark of entrepreneurial life has always been with me.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
My business is Mara Girone Simple Sophistication, a fashion label of ‘powerful words you can wear’.
I embellish clothes with hand embroidery for women who are guided by passion and curiosity for our rich and colourful world, facing every day with independent spirit and style. I have created a range of ready-to-wear products including 100% recycled t-shirts and organic cotton hoodies with powerful words and messages embroidered on and 100% silk scarves manufactured in Italy.
I strongly believe in the power of words beyond their value as a group of letters and sounds. Words have intention, intensity and cultural significance. These values can give us power when we carry them on our clothes as a reminder of our worthiness.
To break free from our limiting beliefs and feel uncaged and bold, we need to work on our mindset and the words, repeated, worn and meaningfully accepted, can make wonders in that direction.
With my podcast I follow the same ‘why’ that supports my fashion brand. My guests empower other women through the energy of storytelling, sharing with us their ups and downs, their breakthroughs and learnings.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
At the age of 8, I fell in love with hand-embroidery and regularly returned to this art form throughout my life. I could get lost in it for hours and although at the time I didn’t know, I had discovered a powerful and effective form of meditation.
Creating with hands has always been very fascinating. It holds some magic as it has the power to transform raw materials into beauty.
I was living in Athens when I turned to hand-embroidery again and because this art became a defining gesture of my day-to-day life, I promised myself that I would not lose it again. So when I moved to London in 2017, I took a leap of faith, and with a full heart, I began this adventure of creating empowering hand-embroidery. I chose clothes, as it is something everyone has need of, and they can inspire both the wearer and the watcher.
I was inspired by that girl who felt trapped in a small reality and felt the need to open her wings and fly; by the mother who in the process of giving to her family lost her identity and felt the need to find it again; by the woman who not always could count with the right mindset for success and had to work on herself to extract the magic within. These versions of myself and more examples from many other women in need of the right support, of the right reminder of their value are the inspiration behind my creations.
How did you achieve awareness?
I am active on social media. The behind the scenes work is enormous. What you see is a little piece of ideas, editing, writing, choosing the right image, the right purpose, the right message. This doesn’t mean that there is an exact formula to get visible, but I believe that working with passion will always pay back.
Apart from the social media world that nowadays takes a big part of our social interaction, I write a lot and I have published articles in online and physical magazines.
As I am convinced that brick and mortar shops still have a lot of potential, I started being present in retail spaces like John Lewis.
Networking is definitely a very nurturing part of my work and a way to see my business from different angles and develop different approaches to increase awareness.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
At the moment I am totally self-funded. I never believed in overnight success so I was aware that I had to invest not only knowledge, energy, work and skills, but also money if I wanted my dream to come true.
What are the key successes?
I think what we call success is different for everyone and it is difficult to define it in a univocal way.
I like to think of success like three steps that we repeat in a loop without even realizing it:
Curiosity is what pushes us towards new adventures, it is the quality that keeps our motivation, our spark alive;
Determination is what gives us strength, energy and endurance to get to our vision;
Resilience is the help we need when falling, to stand up again and start stronger than before.
Here is when we reach success.
Then we start again as each time we get to the finish line we will have a new objective, a new vision to fulfill.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
At the time each of my children were born it coincided with a move abroad, and I experienced a real loss of identity, which I only resolved by returning to my creative roots. Each time I was in a new country with nothing familiar around me, didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak the language. I lost myself in the roles of Mum and wife.
By taking that time for myself and my love of art, I was reinvigorated. I tried techniques I hadn’t done since I was a child, such as hand-embroidery, and learned totally new ones such as millinery. Reconnecting with my creative side each time made me realise that to maintain balance and contentment, I needed art in my daily life and in my job, and so I began planning a business.
What are your plans now/for the future?
In my vision there is a collaboration with a charity and the possibility to involve the women they represent to work with me. With my garments and my podcast I want to support women through the power of words to second a positive mindset. I wish my pieces to be reminders of our worthiness in our daily life and every day challenges.
Business wise my plan is to be stocked in department and concept stores in order to become more and more independent and self-sufficient until I am producing the income that I envisioned in my ‘wild dreams’ sessions.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
You will always be afraid of trying new things that life forces you to face, but be courageous and be determined. Jump, take the leap, amazing things are waiting for you on the other side. No matter what, trust yourself in this adventure, the best is still yet to come. If you feel uncomfortable when faced with a choice it means that there will be growth along the journey that is what we have to aim for, no matter what.
Can you share your top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
– Take inspiration from those around you. Their stories. Their uniqueness. Their creative journey. They can be children, they can be random strangers you meet in the street and they can be amazing artists, writers, entrepreneurs.
– Do what you enjoy and enjoy it to the fullest.
– Learn. Do not be afraid to broaden your horizons and knowledge. An informed person is a successful person therefore gain that knowledge and use it to your advantage.
– Never give up! Have the attitude to face life with a smile, the capacity to dream wild, and to not be afraid of giving your all.
– Probably the most important one: Believe in yourself!!! You can do this!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
Tony Robbins because with the help of his knowledge I had some incredible breakthroughs in my private and professional life
Anabella Veronesi because she is very creative, very real and knows how to keep strong the communication with the people around her
Alexander McQueen because his designs are contrasts, leather and tulle, embroidery and denim, exactly like I love it
Hanya Yanagihara because she is one of the most incredible authors I have ever read. With ‘A little life’ she went deep inside and stayed there, forever
Mischka Aoki because her creations are mind blowing, the quantity of detail makes you stare to a dress for ours
And then definitely my mum is a great inspiration for me (she is not on social media) and many artists, authors, philanthropist, actors…who are long gone!
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
I strongly believe in the power of words so from an early age I always kept a diary where to collect inspirational quotes, so I have many! I can share with you some of the most dear to me.
‘Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable’ – Mary Oliver
‘Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create’ – Roy T. Bennet
‘Many People, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book’ – Jane Smiley
and then any from Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Franz Kafka, Lewis Carrol, Margaret Atwood, Paulo Coelho and many others.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?