Mimi Plange’s designs are the perfect blend of soft femininity and raw wildness. Having dressed everyone from Michelle Obama to Rihanna, Plange’s pieces offer something for every modern woman. I recently had the opportunity to interview Mimi and I must say, her answers left me inspired and full of life. Read my interview with Mimi below.

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What inspires you when creating your pieces?

It’s mostly books, music, history, old photographs and colors.  I always do a bit of research before I begin working.  I really love looking at ancient cultures and how they adorned themselves without fabric.  I’m interested in the decorated body, tattoos, scarification, body painting, beautifying oneself with feathers and objects.

What are three staple items that every woman should have in her closet? 

1. A classic white shirt

2. A leather skirt

3. And a printed dress that makes you happy

Name one of your favorite style icons and why:

My favorite fashion designer is Azzedine Alia.  It’s his work, his confidence, and his ability to stay true to himself over the years.  He is no nonsense and all about the craft.  He is a true talent and genius.  For me, he is true inspiration.

How do you describe your personal sense of style?

A Menswear inspired mix of ultra feminine elegance and edge.

What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had since starting your brand?

Just seeing it grow is the most rewarding thing ever.  It’s like you start this thing, with all these ideas and you watch yourself adapt and innovate and the brand starts to reflect your thoughts and beliefs.  It’s amazing to create something.  It’s the art of being able to create and express yourself to someone through design.  When consumers respond to your designs, you begin a form of communication with one another, and that is the experience I want to continue forever and ever.  I want to keep the dialogue going.

What has been the toughest lesson you’ve learned since starting your brand?

You can’t be all things to all people.  You really have to find your own inner strength and follow your own path.  There are many things that can work, but you have to remember that what you do can be absolutely new and different.  It doesn’t have to be what you have seen before.

What are 5 things you’d tell your 20-year-old self?

1. It’s not that deep.

2. Have more fun.

3. Meet more people.

4. Don’t wait.

5. Today is all that matters.

Tell us about your collaboration with Roche Bobois Atlanta and the new textile design for the iconic Mah Jong lounge?

For the collaboration with Roche Bobois, we are dressing the iconic Mah Jong set in Mimi Plange!  We wanted to share our love of world cultures, Africa and whimsical design, and create something unique for the home.  We printed on leather and canvas, and developed a custom hand woven textile from Burkina Faso in West Africa.

Were there any African cultural references or inspirations you brought to the Roche Bobois Mah Jong design, as we’ve seen with your other work?

Yes, definitely!  We used a beautiful hand woven fabric from Burkina Faso in partnership with the Ethical Fashion Initiative, and we also created prints that were inspired by the Ghanaian Ashanti doll.  We created our own version of a kente cloth, and designed a surreal animal kingdom full of butterfly monkeys and Victorian florals.

This time, we looked more at traditions and items that I grew up with in my home.  It was a translation of the décor I’ve seen growing up.  Many family members have always decorated with Ashanti dolls and cloths.  Many wooden carved artworks that were on our walls had traditional kente clothes incorporated into them.  It just seemed natural to translate these ideas into something new and modern.

As a designer, you get asked to collaborate a lot. How do you decide which brands you’ll partner with? What was it about the Roche Bobois Atlanta collaboration that made you say “yes?”

It was an honor to be able to collaborate with such an iconic brand as Roche Bobois. In the past, we have collaborated with Kasia Kay Art Projects Art Gallery and famed shoe designer Manolo Blahnik.  For us, the right brand to collaborate with is one that we feel mirrors our desire to create the most thoughtful and provoking designs that can relate to people on many different levels.  Design and aesthetic are key.  It’s a way for us to share our audiences and bring them something new, and more importantly its about lifestyle.  We are a brand who wants to design for everyday life, and that means shoes, art, accessories, digital, and now furniture.

As a female designer of color, have any obstacles been placed in your way specific to that experience? How have you overcome them?

I think it’s very difficult for anyone to become a successful fashion designer, mainly because it’s a very expensive business to be in.  That’s the most major obstacle.

I think as an entrepreneur you have to find alternative routes to get to where you are going, if something seems to be in the way.  There are so many possibilities.   Yes, some may take longer, but none of those things will matter when you finally get to your destination.  I don’t feed into energies that someone has a power over me and my journey.  Ultimately, it’s the way you see yourself, and it comes down to what you believe.  I believe that I am the only person or obstacle who can keep me from getting what I want.

What are your thoughts on the Atlanta fashion design scene?

I was fortunate enough to teach a master class at SCAD Atlanta a few years ago, and met so many amazing and super talented young and budding fashion designers.  I think fashion in general is so global now with social media that styles and inspirations from cities all around the world kind of collide.  You can truly be a designer anywhere today.  Atlanta has become such a super hub of design, and I see the fashion design scene here continuing to grow and prosper.

Any words of encouragement or tips for upcoming designers?

If you can, try and work for someone else first to learn the business of fashion.  Though you may be a really talented designer, the talent will only take you so far.  Fashion is a major business, and you have to work with many different people from sales to marketing and production in order to create your collection and get it out there.

Really work on having your own distinctive voice.  There is no reason for you to be here, if you are creating what already exists.  Think about the women and men you want to dress.  Are they like you?  What are their needs?  How will you fulfill them?  Designing isn’t just about making things that we as designers want, but it’s really a journey about finding beautiful, authentic and sustainable ways to satisfy the needs of consumers.  And of course believe in yourself and be humble.

Be sure to see Mimi at MA! Design is Human’s MA! Talks Roche Bobois & Mimi Plange, Friday, June 1oth at 6:30 at The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. Mimi will discuss her creative roots and background in architecture, upcoming projects and her exciting limited-edition textile design collaboration with Roche Bobois Atlanta for their classic Mah Jong sofa. Tickets available here.

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