Sustainably minded clothing—which Maria McManus produces so seamlessly that you might think sourcing buttons from a Brazilian nut that cannot be harvested must be easy—only really works if the clothing itself is compelling. The stories of how and why something was made don’t move the needle yet when it comes to sales. For most shoppers, the pang of desire has to be there.
McManus has paid extra to confirm that her fabrics from Japan and Europe are certified to the highest current standard of environmentalism. She’s got Cupro and viscose certified by the Forest Stewardship Council in the mix and a proprietary recycled cashmere and cotton blend. The amount of behind-the-scenes work is staggering. “I just want to feel good about what I make,” she says in her spacious Tribeca home that doubles as her showroom.
The backstory wouldn’t be important if McManus’s clothes didn’t have a pointed appeal. Grounded in tailoring, her blouson shirts, warm knits, and brand new micro minis—for those looking to show legs but averse to Miu Miu-style twee—have a smart, New Yorky look. Not too try-hard, even with arty, long arm slits or styled with very of-the-moment red hosiery. Worn with jewelry by Matthew Swope, who makes rope necklaces from found objects, McManus’s collection finds beauty in the simple things. That she is working to preserve the simple grace of nature is just a very important bonus.