LOCAL PEOPLE MAKING A DIFFERENCE
What inspired you to launch a fashion brand? I am a simple girl who grew up on a poor working
farm in rural Ireland, one of 12 children in a house with no indoor plumbing. I know it sounds kind
of romantic, but it was very hard and there were few store-bought items in our humble cottage. My
siblings and I learned to knit and sew when we were little so we could make clothing for the family.
When I emigrated to the U. S., I found that I could apply my knitting skills in unique ways and make
sweaters that people would actually buy. I can’t explain the success other than to say I design what I
would like to wear — it seems others enjoy the same things.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
The people who work with me are so important
for the execution of the entire process, from
design and production to the retail store stylists
where the client interface happens. I would be
nothing without this loyal team. The world of
fashion is ever changing and of course I adapt.
My three sons, who are in their 20s, shop almost
exclusively on their phones — they don’t even go
to stores to shop for clothes. I see that our web
sales are growing at an extraordinary rate, so
I continue to move us toward the Instagram/
Facebook influencer world.
What do you like about life in Marin? How
has where you live influenced your brand? My
greatest inspiration as a designer comes from
the world right outside my door. Marvelous
Marin: there really is no place on earth quite
like it. I especially love hiking in the redwoods
and walking our fog-shrouded beaches.
Please describe your core customers. What
are their values and how does your brand align
with these? I’m proud to serve clients of all
ages and from all walks of life. The value
that binds us together is sustainability. If
you buy fast-fashion clothing that lasts a
season or less, you are contributing to so
much waste. And not only the product but
the people who labor to make that cheap
The founder of the eponymous clothing company shares
her thoughts on success and giving back. BY SUSAN NOYES
clothing — their lives must also be considered.
Here, your purchase will last a lifetime. In fact,
we offer a repair and maintenance service for
your knitwear to make sure it does.
Where do you find your design inspiration? All
successful fashion designers follow the work of
other great designers. I am no different, so I love
to travel to Paris and watch the great new crop of
designs at Chanel, Saint Laurent, Dior, Valentino
and other houses. I guess you could say my design
inspiration includes the trickle-down effect from
Paris runway to Marin County living.
What are other favorite forms of inspiration? My husband and I love Monet; we have
visited his studio outside Paris and seek out
his work when we travel. I have also viewed
all but one of the existing da Vinci paintings,
and I think that he was helped by aliens.
And (secret-reveal time for those who don’t
follow me on Instagram), I am a Deadhead,
thanks to my husband. Bob Weir has done
an awesome job steering Dead & Company
to new heights. I cherish our local Marin
writer Anne Lamott and right now I’m reading Irish-based novelist Tana French. I live
in the town of Mill Valley, which has the
Sweetwater, so I have access to all kinds of
great local musicians. And you can find me at
Monday night meditation at Spirit Rock.
What causes or organizations do you care
most deeply about? My passion revolves
around women’s and children’s issues, notably sustainable work that honors women
and sustains the places in which we live. We
pay a great deal of attention to our supply
chain and we think about sustainability in
all we do and how it impacts not only our
customers but those who work with and for
us, in all parts of the world. Women from
the Andes in Peru knit for me under the Fair
Trade system, which ensures fair wages and
safe, healthy, participatory workplaces. It is
rooted in a respect for cultural identity and
a commitment to both the environment and
women’s empowerment. Giving back to the
local community is so important to me. Over
the last few years Margaret O’Leary has
donated tens of thousands of dollars in cash
and clothing to flood and fire victims across
the United States. m
Susan B. Noyes is the founder and chief visionary officer of Make It Better Media Group, as well as the founder of Make It Better Foundation’s Philanthropy Awards.
A mother of six, former Sidley Austin labor lawyer and U. S. Congressional aide and passionate philanthropist, she has also served on many boards.