BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Having dressed some of the world’s most fashionable women, including Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Brooke Shields, and several cast members of the hit series Empire, Maria Pinto is arguably Chicago’s most in-demand, and celebrated, designer.
Also among her many fans? The Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, who recently feted the designer for her generous donation to the museum of multiple pieces from her Jeanne Gang collection.
It was a testament to the loyal fan base she has built to look across the audience, filled with Chicago’s chicest, and see so many decked out in her designs.
One of the most glamorous was Noren Ungaretti, a Costume Council past president, who confessed in her introduction, “If Maria Pinto designed shoes, I would be dressed totally in Maria.”
For her presentation, Maria brought along models wearing her 2015 Jeanne Gang designs, created in honor of the legendary architect, and photographer Sandro Miller, who created iconic photos of the collection, which he also gave to the museum.
Miller confessed to Costume Curator Petra Slinkard, perfect in Pinto herself, that the sleek pieces framing the models were not Jeanne Gang but inexpensive office furniture that somehow worked.
In the dialogue with Petra, Maria added that Jeanne had loved the collection—and happens to be a loyal customer of her clothing line.
Noren couldn’t say enough about Maria’s new line, also showcased by models on-hand for the luncheon:
“My friend Maria is a remarkable artist and designer. In her new business concept, M2057, she has refocused herself and continued the logic of her work into the needs of a modern woman’s sensibility.
“With the exception of seasonal capsule collections, such as last year’s leather or this summer’s denim, all the items are made from a very practical jersey knit. It drapes well, to flatter the figure, but the weight of it has enough body so it s not clingy.
“And best of all, the fabric is machine washable, so you could rinse it out in a sink in your hotel room and hang it to dry if needed!”
We caught up with Maria just after the Costume Council celebration and asked: Is there a typical Maria Pinto client?
“She is very spirited and has a very strong point of view. My hope is that my designs can be like blank canvases, which my client can personalize. The parts move, and I offer a rich palette of color. Lapis and sepia, which is sort of a smoky brown, are new.
“Each season, a new color comes in that works with items my client may already own. Noren, for instance, wore my new slate coat over a very flattering blue from an earlier season for the luncheon.
“I think women will like the flow of the new silhouettes soon to be previewed. I have 8 new pieces for the pre-fall line coming out in August, 16 new ones for my fall line, and 7 or 8 for the holidays.”
A graduate of the School of the Art Institute, where she studied painting and sculpture, Maria began painting again in 2010. Her latest new project is a series of pop-up stores this fall in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco.
Being asked to donate pieces from her Jeanne Gang collection means much to the designer:
“I designed our Jeanne Gang pieces at the time of Chicago’s Architectural Biennial in 2015. It is pretty tremendous to join some of the most amazing iconic designers through history who are a part of the Chicago History Museum.
“Petra is so passionate and knowledgeable about her work, and looks at their amazing collection as an artist would.”
With more than 50,000 costumes and textiles from the 18th century to the present, the Chicago History Museum is known for the quality and breadth of its collection. The Costume Council supports the museum and its collection in a variety of ways, through fundraising and educational programming—you can always count on this group for some of the most engaging events in town.
For more information about the collections at the Chicago History Museum, visit chicagohistory.org.
Photo credit: Sean Su Photography