Skip to main content

Marla Ginsburg has turned her easy-to-wear collections into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.

Marla Ginsburg's clothing collection, Marla Wynne, has struck a chord among women with changing bodies who still crave affordably stylish pieces. What's also inspiring about this designer is that her career in fashion is a reinvention of self that most people only dream of.

Ginsburg started out in television, producing such hit international series as Highlander and La Femme Nikita. She also spent a couple of decades in Paris with her family, where she learned a lot about great style. In 2003, Ginsburg moved back to Los Angeles to work on a number of TV pilots. Unfortunately – or not – none of them flew. During the writers' strike in 2007, Ginsburg had a wake-up call: She knew it was time to start her "second act" and cater to her sartorial fantasies. So she started designing her own clothing line. Initially, she partnered with a Canadian manufacturer and moved to Montreal to work on her collections. But the fit wasn't right, so Ginsburg set about finding another partner to give her Marla Wynne brand a boost. I spoke with the New York-based designer about some of the shopping frustrations hard-to-fit women face and how her new endeavour has turned into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.

Tell me what you went through when it came to trying to find clothes that worked for you.

You have to first remember that I lived in Paris for 20 years, so I had a closet of Gucci, Pucci, Prada…. I had everybody! But I also spent my life in Paris running around, walking and chasing children. By the time I moved back to L.A., I was back in a car, and I grew. I expanded! And I would find that the jeans and the pants I loved weren't cut right for me. They were a little too low and didn't have quite enough stretch. I wasn't comfortable and I felt like I was going to have to give up oxygen and food to put them on. Suddenly tops wouldn't fit me – the buttons were pulling. So I started wearing a lot of leggings and flowy tops, but that's not always the look I want to have. I found it increasingly difficult to find a pant that fit me well, that I could just buy in every colour and be happy with. I wasn't after the latest, newest, most fabulous clothing. I was after classic, clean, easy elegance. And I just could not find it, or if I did, it was at such a ridiculously high price point I just wasn't going to do it. So it really started there, with my own changing body.

What gave you the incentive to really get out there and start a clothing collection?

Timing is almost everything in life. And my personal situation shifted drastically after I had returned to the U.S., with the writer's strike in 2007 and 2008. I knew that finding the kind of rich deals I'd had in the past were gone. I really needed to find a new career. And I quickly learned that the design and manufacturing of clothing isn't all that different from the creation of a TV series. They're very similar steps. And so for me, it was a kind of logical transition because on every set I've ever run, you would find me in the wardrobe trailer all the time. I always had a passion for fashion. I don't know that I understood that it would be as successful or as big as it has become, but I did believe it was something that I could do that would take some of the skills that I had developed in film and television, and I could continue to apply them across a different medium.

To create your own designs with no formal training must have taken a lot of nerve. How did you start?

After spending a lot of time going into stores and going online and finding that there wasn't a brand out there that suited my changing body and lifestyle, I simply took matters into my own hands and decided to buy myself a sewing machine and tracing paper and pattern paper, and see if I could come up with those things that helped me look fabulous and have that style that I'd always had. After all, after 20 years of living in Paris, you pick up a few things.

The way your business has grown has been extraordinary. What do you attribute that to?

We relaunched the brand in 2013, and suddenly, after making lots of starts and stops and mistakes, there was a magic moment where I had the right product at the right price at the right time. And so that magical combination allowed for exponential growth. I really relate to my customer, and she relates to me. We share our love of fashion and our understanding that life has changed us a little bit but none of us want to give up. I interface a lot with my customers through social media, and my customers tell me what styles they want me to bring back, what colours they love. They tell me what some of their confidence challenges are. They ask me for things they need, and I listen to them, and by listening to other women like myself who can't find things they want, I'm able to build a collection that they want because what they want and what I want are very similar.

What would you say your customers ultimately come to you for?

My customer comes to me for a well-priced, easy, elegant piece. That's it. If she wants bright prints, I'm not her gal. If she wants bells and whistles and glitter and glitz, I'm not her gal. I stay very true to my own vision and I don't pay attention to runways and what's hot and what's not, because I don't care. I want clothes that make me look good, and I don't want the clothes to wear the customer. I don't want somebody to walk up to you if you're wearing my stuff and say, 'Oh, I love your blouse!' If that happens, I have failed you. I want them to walk up to you and say, 'You look great! What is it?' And 'I'm feeling great!' is the answer. And you're feeling great because your clothes fit and flatter you, and that makes you beautiful. But I don't want the clothes to be the story. I really want you to be the story.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe