Mary Meyer Clothing

Designer Mary Meyer (middle) with associates Emma Kadar-Penner (left) manager of Friends Vintage (MM), and Stephanie Levy, MM photo manager, in Bushwick. Photo by Colby Blount (cblountphotography.com)

By Francesca Moisin

Like many great success stories, this was born of necessity. Mary Meyer didn’t always want to design clothes. As a student at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, she studied printmaking, weaving, dyeing, welding, and woodworking before graduating with a degree in painting. It was only after school that fate and need collided to alter Meyer’s future. “I was broke and couldn’t afford to buy the things I wanted, so I started making them,” says the 34-year old Williamsburg resident. “People would ask where I’d found my top, and upon learning I’d made it, they’d want one too.”

A small factory soon sprouted in her living room, and Meyer began to create custom dresses and shirts for friends. The Northern California native founded her company, Mary Meyer Clothing (marymeyerclothing.com), in 2005 before migrating East one year later. These days, with the exception of a few pieces fabricated at a midtown Manhattan workshop, all MMC designs are handmade in a factory near Coney Island, printed in Greenpoint, and dyed and processed in Bushwick. “It’s important to support my community,” says Meyer. “Because production is local, I can also monitor working conditions to maintain healthy environments and ensure garments are sewn correctly.”

Such dedication to detail has paid off. Along with her own 56 Bogart Street shop in Bushwick, major retailers including Urban Outfitters, Bona Drag, and International Playground now carry Meyer’s attire. The typical client—female, 22 to 35 years old, attending school or working as a young professional—buys a MMC garment because it boasts the perfect blend of sexiness and casual ease. “She loves cute clothes, but she also likes to be comfortable,” explains Meyer.

Case in point: the gray silk Cher Dress ($253), named in honor of Cher Horowitz, Alicia Silverstone’s character in the 1995 film Clueless. The baby-doll cut and big front buttons flatter any shape, while the low neck and three-quarter sleeves add a splash of sass. The 90s—that infamous era of plaid mini-skirts, high-waisted jeans, belly tops, flannel, and grunge—have long inspired Meyer. “I’m a kid of the 90s,” she says. “I grew up on Venice Beach listening to Jane’s Addiction and loving River Phoenix, so I guess it’s in my blood.” Her favorite item in her own closet is still a pair of matte green Doc Martens from the early part of the decade.

In addition to vintage fashion trends, almost anything can spark the artist’s active imagination. “Markings in cement, a beach, African textiles, Japanese dye techniques, bridges, rock and roll—whenever I see a cool shape or color, I get an idea,” says Meyer. These impressions are often transformed into paintings or custom prints, which are then transferred to a top or accessory, such as the distinctive two-tone cotton Slash Scarf ($97).

“The skills I learned in college are still a big part of what I do today, so in a way I’ve come full circle,” muses Meyer—and she’s nowhere near done yet. The New Year will see an expansion from two to four seasonal collections, and fellow retro fiends will rave over Friends Vintage, a line launched with colleague Emma Kadar Penner. “It’s amazing how much you can get done in one week in New York!” says Meyer.