Designer MaryLynda Mac Donald started her career as an artisan but turned her paint-splattered pants into her signature fashion collection.
Fashion Mingle got together with Marylynda MacDonald, creator and head designer of Chu Chu Loo to discuss how she made a career switch to fashion after 18 years as an artisan, and how one pair of pants became the inspiration for this creative career change.
Fashion Mingle: You have a background as an artisan and then you decided to create your own fashion collection. Can you share some details about your process and what the Chu Chu Loo aesthetic is all about?
Marylynda Mac Donald: I was an artist for 18 years, working high end commercial projects, and I had these work pants that I had worn for about 17 years. They were white pants, but had every color you could imagine. People would ask me where I got them, and I would always look at them funny, because to me they were a mess, and I’d say “Can’t you see these are my work pants?” One day in 2014, I was asked 7 times (and that’s sort of my lucky number) and I got asked everywhere, at the gas station, going to pick up coffee, walking in the building, in the elevator, so I thought, should I transfer my creativity to fashion? That’s how it started—with beautiful colors, like those that were on my pants, the kind that make people feel good. I think that was the reaction people got when they looked at them, because they were fun.
FM: Your collection definitely has gorgeous inspiration that you can feel in a sunny, breezy warmth. Can you tell us about the work pants that inspired your splatter collection?
MM: The work pants were called “Perez pants” because Jorge Perez, a very successful builder, gave me my first big commercial project. I went on to work with him in many buildings where I created murals in Venetian stucco and different finishes in his lobbies and corridors. He gave me my first opportunity, and the pants that eventually inspired me to try my hand at fashion.
FM: Let’s talk about how you came up with this paint design on the Perez pants. How did you decide on the right amount of paint or splatter pattern?
MM: I photographed my pants and sent it to this company in New York who I ended up producing my first collection with. I didn’t want [the splatter] to fall the same on every pair. So every pair of pants and skirt is unique. I wanted it to just be how it happened. That’s the beauty of the pattern, it’s not the same. You will have some blues and greens and black and taupe and grey, and others that won’t because of the way the pattern was cut, and that was OK with me.
FM: Every single piece is unique! Tell us about your experience working in the garment district in New York City. Was it hard to find the kind of people you needed to work with to pull a design like this off?
MM: I think I got very lucky with my first experience. As we all know, the garment business is so difficult. It’s hard and you really have to have the passion to do it. But the person I ended up working with was so upfront with me and said he really liked the unique design that I had and the story. But he was convinced it would take three years before I saw anything. When I sat down with him in all the meetings, he really was against me. I wanted to use all Italian fabric and he was like, “You are a first time designer, and you are going to use all Italian fabrics? How do you think you are going to make money?” I didn’t care. I wanted those Italian fabrics!
So I had the colors dyed in Italy, shipped to New York and had to have a specific colors that didn’t exist in the fabric. I’m glad I stuck to that. My first collection was made in New York, and I think they did an amazing job on the sewing—it was beautifully made and that’s important to me.
FM: So how can people find your collection? I know you sell online. Are you looking for stores right now or what is your plan?
MM: My online store has really taken off in the last year. Being in the art business, working with a lot of interior designers in all different cities, I got to meet a lot of them. I sent my website to all these interior designers and they purchased a lot of my designs for themselves, or told their friends. It was really that way that I got the business, through people that are creators.
The Lilac, Pool Blue, and White Collection
FM: That’s a really smart way, going to the people who you knew would appreciate the story of the design. Right now, your collection is at the Seventh House Showroom in Manhattan?
MM: Yes. I was in a couple stores in Coral Gables and one called Curves and Waves. I’ve done a lot of trunk shows including one at the Ritz Carlton’s that did very well. Now I am opening my first brick and mortar store in Naples, Florida.
FM: How did you come up with the name Chu Chu Loo? That’s such a unique name for a designer brand.
MM: That was a struggle because I started designing and I kept putting off choosing a name. My soulmate animal friend, the cat Chu Chu Loo, was out on the porch with me when I was really struggling with coming up with a name when I looked at him. The way he is so carefree and his head so graceful and beautiful. I said, “It’s you! It’s you!” His head is my logo for the company and it has become another print. I had put it on the interior of the jacket of my first collection, where I repeated the little head. In every jacket the whole print would be in black and white except for one head which would be an aqua blue in a different place every time. So it was kind of a mystery where people could find their blue heads.
FM: You have such a fascinating story. Your namesake animal is just an incredible story as well. We’re really excited to see your brand grow with this much creativity coming out of you. We hope to be able to visit you someday in your boutique in Naples!
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