Maria Karimi has survived a war, a transatlantic move and a global pandemic. But despite it all, the Mindful Pigs designer is still smiling.
Negativity isn’t common practice in the world of Mindful Pigs, a Montreal-based label with an aptitude for unabashed joy and positivity. It offers smile-inducing clothes — pieces that radiate happiness whether they’re colourful bandanas, mesh matching sets or heart-shaped backpacks.
“I realized quite early on that optimism is a choice,” reflects founder Maria Karimi. “When things get hard, I think to myself ‘I’ve been through worse; I can tackle anything.’” And, indeed, she has, and she can.
Karimi was born in Afghanistan but spent her early years in India after war broke out in her native country. “As a child, I regularly saw soldiers, rockets and bombs,” she shares. “When you leave an environment like that, you have to count your blessings.”
The designer admits that she never had much interest in the arts when she was younger because it felt too impractical. However, after her family moved to Canada and she discovered fashion, everything changed. “I was always in my head, so fashion gave me the freedom to feel,” she says. Cut to 2017 and Karimi launched MAR, a ready-to-wear brand that specializes in modern classics, followed in 2022 by the cruelty-free, sustainable and genderless Mindful Pigs.
“My goal is to simply inspire other souls to practise a kinder way of consuming and have some extra love and empathy for the planet as a whole,” shares Karimi, who describes herself as a “soft activist.” “Anyone, no matter their age or gender, can use fashion as a way to speak without words. Clothing should allow you to be whomever you want.”
Here, the designer shares the influences that inspire her work, including her blended background, need to travel and zest for life.
“Everything I do comes from a place of love, and I always hope that my work inspires that feeling in someone else. When you do everything with sincerity and purpose, it simplifies life.”
“I’ve been vegan for about six years, and it’s the best decision I ever made. Mindful Pigs aims to make cruelty-free clothes more fashion-forward.”
“I have to go somewhere at least once a year; otherwise, I get this itch under my skin. I need to breathe new air. I love discovering new people, food and art. It fulfills my curiosity and hunger to learn, observe and be inspired.”
“Having grown up and been around so many different cultures, I find it all becomes a blur — but also an inspiration. The mix of texture, colours and embroidery in my work is heavily influenced by my Afghan and Indian background.”
“Whenever I’m making a structured piece, it’s inspired by Western culture. In North America, people need to be dressed a certain way to exude power, and many of my clients have a business background, so a blend of emotions and psychology is always at play.”
“I don’t think I can ever make clothes for just one gender. At age two, I decided I was a boy. I gave myself a boy’s name and only wore boys clothing until my early teens. I have since made peace with my gender as a woman, but my early gender fluidity translated into my work.”
This article first appeared in FASHION’s Summer 2023 issue. Find out more here.