Almost two decades since Maria Cornejo established Zero + Maria Cornejo, her eponymous brand has managed to maintain its sense of elegance and family. With her husband, the renowned and emotive photographer Mark Borthwick, photographing the first years of the brand, and her daughter now photographing a special capsule collection, Cornejo and the clothes she sculpts are infused with a sense of love and authenticity that can only be found in an environment of family creation. To not only celebrate and remember the grounded expression that she has imparted over the last two decades, but also to provide context and re-evaluation for the future of the brand, Cornejo has created the photobook “Maria Cornejo: Zero 1997 – 2017+”, published by Rizzoli. In the midst of her busy schedule, Cornejo spoke with Document’s Shawn Lakin to discuss family, her creative process, and how she seeks to provide an authentic voice to womenswear.
Shawn Lakin—How did the origin of your first collection coinciding with your pregnancy affect how you think about women’s bodies and designing for women?
Maria Cornejo—I feel like the clothing should be versatile, especially for women. Women have many lives they live in a day—they have to go from day to night and their clothing has to have an ease to them. You take your kid to school in the morning and then you have to go to a meeting or get drinks at the end of the day, so the idea of versatility was important to me.
Shawn—Did Mark draw inspiration from your collection or did you draw any inspiration from his work before creating the collection?
Maria—I came up with my own way of cutting, but we both like a very spare aesthetic. The biggest influence that Mark had on me was that he kept telling me to do what I want and to come at it from a real place.
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Shawn—Your daughter photographed your recent capsule collection, bringing the brand full circle. What influence do you think your family has had on your company and your design process?
Maria—It feels really amazing to now have Bibi [Cornejo Borthwick] photographing the newer collections because Mark shot so much of the early years. This company started as a family project and has grown into a much larger family, so to have my daughter, whom I trust implicitly on a creative level, step in and create images for us is really special. I trust the feedback from my family. My son and daughter are the new generation and it keeps me on my toes and youthful. My family absolutely influences me on a daily basis.
Shawn—What is it like running a company as a woman? What advice would you give to another woman wanting to embark on a similar journey?
This company started as a family project and has grown into a much larger family, so to have my daughter, whom I trust implicitly on a creative level, step in and create images for us is really special.
Maria—It’s a juggle to be a female with a family and a business. You really have to stick to your own voice. It’s not easy, but women are so incredible and are able to multi-task. I try not to sweat the small stuff and stay focused on the bigger picture.
Shawn—What is the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself through owning your own company?
Maria—You’re only as good as the team you surround yourself with.
Shawn—Cindy Sherman seems to be a recurring ambassador for the brand, including a collaboration for your 15th year anniversary. What about her or her practice do you think resonates with your design process?
Maria—I think Cindy and I are really similar in how we both create. We both put ourselves in the minds of other women and try to represent them through our work. I really related to her because of that.
“MARIA CORNEJO: ZERO 1997 – 2017” by Maria Cornejo is published by Rizzoli New York and is available online now.