It may seem like every girl’s dream to grow up to be a fashion designer.  A life of glitz and glam, high fashion, couture.  However, that wasn’t necessarily the vision of Mary Denton, founder of Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co..  A beautiful and well educated lawyer with a desire to fill a void in her wardrobe and everyday life, Mary deservedly stumbled into the wonderful world of G & MA athleisure wear.  Just over two years later and she is running a successful and sustainable clothing company, focusing on providing women a fashionable alternative to everyday activewear.  I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mary and dig a bit deeper into how Ginger &  Mary Ann Clothing Co. came to be.   Mary’s enthusiasm and passion for this brand is contagious.

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Ginger & MaryAnn founder, Mary Denton.

Immediately I understood that this company embodies much more than just clothing.  Mary and her team are creating wearable art, by involving her community, local artists, and inspiring an active culture with everyone they touch.  The authenticity of the brand is apparent, especially when Mary shared her original intent behind Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co..

“The idea of a starting a clothing line was spontaneous and driven by the fact that my husband was very sick at the time.  The situation required that we travel back and forth to bigger cities for the hospitals and doctors available there and I found myself constantly sitting in hospital rooms and doctors’ offices.  During the rare hours I wasn’t at the hospital, I’d hit some of the mainstream stores searching for colorful, fashionable items that could be worn from a stress-relieving run around the hospital back into the doctor’s office–without it being evident that I had done just that.  I couldn’t “go home and change”.  I needed to be where my husband was and that meant rare breaks for fresh air.    I was looking for fashion, color, performance without identifying with any one particular activity. I wanted clothing that I could wear to the yoga class nearby our hotel as easily as a bike ride or run.  I wanted to go to dinner with my husband when I returned from that activity, looking as comfortable and stylish as anyone else out to dinner.  I was taking care of my husband and myself and there really wasn’t any time left for fussing over details.  In the process of searching all the big brands,  I often found myself attracted to clothing that offered some useful, practical function besides styling.  I don’t think I was attracted to these from a design standpoint, but more because clothing that allowed me to do more without changing fit my lifestyle generally.  For example, when my husband was healthy, in the winter I would often work at the office, then try to fit in some skiing in the afternoon, then meet my husband at the golf course for a drink in the evening.  I had a designer skirt that was comfortable and made of the right fabric which I co-opted into my ski wardrobe so that I could wear my under layer and skirt to work;  then take the skirt off when I put on my ski pants at Bogus Basin, our nearby ski resort; then put the skirt back on when I stripped down to my under layer for a comfortable drive back down the mountain to meet my husband.  This worked great until my “go-to” black skirt got so worn out that I absolutely needed to find something new…and more colorful.  I was tired of a wardrobe full of black clothing.  So, when I couldn’t find anything to fit these criteria in my search of the big brands, and with ample time to ruminate about it in the doctors’ waiting rooms, I concluded, ‘ I can’t find the clothing I want, women like me need this kind of clothing, and I can do this.’ ”

That last statement struck a chord with me. She voiced it so simply; she wanted something so she made it happen.


I’ve been intrigued by the name, Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co. Although not immediately recognizable to all, it was inspired by the classic television show, Gilligan’s Island.  Mary gave me a fun rendition of how this name came to life.

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The original “Ginger” & “Mary Ann”

 

“ In the many hours of daydreaming about the creation of the clothing line and then taking steps to put it into place, I realized that the brand I wanted to create was as much about about lifestyle as it was about clothing.  I wanted to provide clothing designed specifically for women who know when they start their day, they will be hard-pressed to fit in all that they hope to fit in.  We might call this entire category of women ‘overachievers’.  These are women who work hard at keeping their minds and bodies equally fit and healthy; who dedicate time to family as well as personal achievement; women who care about both common sense and beauty — one moment she is elbow deep in gardening and the next she is running to the post office, picking up kids and a last-minute meal. This woman wants to cross-over from her grubby, sweaty yard work to trips into town without wasting time changing clothes and also without compromising on her appearance.  And then I thought, who/what symbolizes that?  Ginger and Mary Ann from the ‘60’s television series popped into my head.  Ginger, the ever-glamorous movie star, and Mary Ann, the no-nonsense wholesome country girl beauty represented the female yin and yang in each woman.  Plus, the Gilligan’s Island theme is fun, funny, and reminiscent of simpler times–the humor is straightforward and innocent. The spirit of the show is very cooperative, resourceful, congenial, and that was what I wanted the clothing brand to represent.”

 


I also discovered that Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co. strives for a whole different take on fashion innovation:  “We don’t think we know everything there is to know about what active women want and need in their clothing.  You don’t have to be a designer to know what works and what doesn’t.  You  do need to be an active woman to know what makes sense in the way of function and fabric and what does not.  So we want to get our design and fabric ideas from our customers, not from the fashion moguls (generally men) sitting in offices somewhere in the big city.”  Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co. takes very seriously the idea of community and social sharing.  It sounds intuitive, to give the people what they want, but Mary and her team are actually making that a reality.  By using their growing social networks, word of mouth, and their influential “women on the move” ambassadors, Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co. is literally taking community involvement to a new level by taking ideas that are shared and bringing those to production.  For example, women had voiced the need for a better way to hold on to and conceal mace spray for late night runs or dog walks.  Working with designers and sewers, G& MA came up with the “safety cuff”, a small pocket hidden in the cuff on the palm -side of the hand.  The Anga, a richly colored and flattering sweatshirt in the  Fall and Winter 2014 line (sure to be back this winter)  includes the safety cuff, as well as the much more sophisticated Caponcha (a black on black embossed dintex Poncho/Cape hybrid also planned again for the winter 2015 line up).  Look for it and try it out yourself next winter.  The “crew members”, as they like to call themselves at Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co,  are always looking for new artists to bring life and color to their designs, as well as style  ideas and fabric feedback.  If your idea is selected, you will be involved in the design process, get a say in the name of the style, and be the first to receive the finished piece.

Ohie skirt on the golf course.Ginger & Mary Ann-Summer 2015-59934606

“We want our customers to give us their ideas. Unlike the big brands, we are accessible.  We have immediate access to the artists, designers, pattern makers  and the factories.  We want to brainstorm ideas to achieve innovative, comfortable, colorful clothing.  Our goal is to be inspired by an innovative idea, work on it, implement it, and working as a team , make it happen. This is a living, breathing, active thing.  We want to grow the brand by including more guest artists, guest designers, new people, new ideas, new fabrics.   In the old days, farm and ranch women worked extremely hard.  These women were relegated to menswear or ‘granny dresses’.  In many ways women today are still stuck in this rut.  We want to change the way of thinking about your clothing options,  as the saying goes ‘these aren’t your granny’s clothes!’ ”

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Ginger & Mary Ann Clothing Co. boasts about one thing in particular and that’s that all production, warehousing and designing is done in the United States.  “Not many brands can make that claim” Mary K proudly smiles. “ There’s something else we can also be very proud of” she continues. “You can have super good ideas and all the money to implement those ideas.  But if you don’t have people who are as excited, interested and committed to seeing them through, nothing is going to happen. It’s all about the people.  Young people with great ideas who jump right in and take on a big responsibility.  I am told that ninety-five percent of the people who start in apparel design quit by the pattern-making stage because it’s an overwhelming amount of work.  And I discovered this is completely true.  It takes really good, dedicated, artistic, young minds to make it come together, and we’re so lucky to have that.”

 

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Ginger & MaryAnn Clothing Co. (also using the trade name and website domain name “Aftersportswear.com”) just launched their Spring/Summer line on May 1st.  It’s brimming with colorful custom artwork and contemporary functional “staple” items that will keep any busy woman looking stylish, without compromising comfort.

My major takeaway? This company isn’t just another small fish in a big pond.  There’s an intangible magic behind it that continues to shine brighter.  I feel lucky to be able to be a tiny part of the experience and can’t wait to help spread the magic with every ‘ woman-on-the-move’!