Nashville’s ever-growing list of fashion designers includes creatives who are not cut from the same cloth. Each stands out in his or her own way. But together, they are propelling the industry forward. One leader on the list is Maria “Poni” Silver, a Dominican-American designer based in Nashville. Although it has only been five years since the launch of her label, Black by Maria Silver, she is no longer considered a new kid on the block. Her designs were showcased in four consecutive Nashville Fashion Week runway shows. She was recipient of the 2016 The Rising Star Award and was a finalist for St. Louis Fashion Week’s Project Design 2013 competition. Her designs have graced the pages of Elle, Nylon, Bust and Southern Living, and her concepts are streetwise and contemporary. It might surprise you that this graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology was a touring drummer and founding member of rock band The Ettes and founder of Fond Object Records. It is a joy for us to introduce this multifaceted creative as today’s FACE of Nashville.
Tell us about your background in design.
My mother taught me how to sew at a young age, and after cutting up all my clothes (to her dismay) and sometimes successfully putting them back together (my favorite moment was a pair of overalls I chopped up and then laced back together with my Dr. Martens laces, oh the ’90s!), I decided to go the The Fashion Institute of Technology and got a degree in design. Throughout my college years, I intermittently worked in costume, which led to my first post-degree job working at a Broadway costume design house. We worked on shows like Mama Mia, Flower Drum Song, Gypsy, 42nd St. and a few movies like Elf. After working with a few independent designers, I took quite the detour playing drums and touring all over for about 10 years. But I always knew I would do something with fashion again.
Why did you decide to launch your line out of Nashville?
Nashville provided the right opportunities at the right time. Life has so many forks in the road, and this particular fork looked shiny and clear and I could not not do it. The timing was just right, Nashville Fashion Week had just started and the place was perfect.
What can people expect from your line? What trends can be found in the current line?
It’s got a streetwear with a nod to the late ’70s/early ’80s. I like being comfortable and for the look to be non-fussy, but minimalism isn’t necessarily for me. I think my pieces are staples for the non-minimalist who hates staples. And pieces that can go from day to night are key!
Tops and bottoms in the same print to create your own suit, volume that still defines your shape, tapered legs and comfy jumpsuits.
What are a few of your key-pieces or must-haves from your current collection?
The Baroness Elsa Jumpsuit, a striped cotton one-piece that’s ’70s chic meets mechanics uniform — so comfy and you’ll get compliments for days! Also the Toyen pant, named after the female Dadaist who refused to define gender.
How has Nashville’s fashion industry changed since you launched your first collection in 2011?
Oh my, how it’s grown! Nashville Fashion Week founders were definitely the pioneers of this particular wave of industry here. And now we have an Alliance, more production capabilities and so many talented designers that I can barely keep up!
You were a touring drummer and founding member of rock band The Ettes. Why did you retire your drum sticks?
I wouldn’t say I’ve retired my drum sticks so much. I think I’ve just stopped touring for now. It’s nice to be still for a minute and work on your own thing. I don’t think I’ll say I’m retired from anything until I retire from everything.
How does music influence your design?
Music and design have always been married. It’s hard to think about a situation for me where one exists without the other. It’s not so much of how one influences the other, it’s more how one feeds off the other and when. So that push and pull fluctuates constantly for me.
What are five songs on your playlist right now?
“We the People” by A Tribe Called Quest
“Everybody’s Gotta Live” by Arthur Lee
“La Femme Fetal” by Digable Planets
“Stuck in the South” by Adia Victoria
“Hurtin (on the bottle)” by Margo Price
What is your secret weapon as a female entrepreneur?
I wish I had a secret weapon! Male or female, being an entrepreneur is an incredible task to take on. I just keep doing the design hustle and hope that people recognize the hard work, attention to detail and ethics behind my business.
If you could dress one person in Black by Maria Silver, who would you chose?
But can’t I dress them all?!!
What is a valuable piece of advice you have been given?
“You do you.” From a friend who’s no longer with us. It’s a good reminder that you’re at your best when you stay true to yourself.
Where can we find you hanging around Nashville?
Duke’s or my studio! They’re down the street from one another, so it’s an easy point A to point B.
What is your next restaurant destination?
Can you recommend a few good reads?
My Dinner with Ron Jeremy by Kendra DeColo (I’m biased here because she lives in Nashville and I’ve seen her read and she’s phenomenal), Pain the Board Game by Sampson Starkweather (I’ve never read a poetry book before that made me laugh out loud like this did, real life LOLs), and When the World Wounds by Kiini Ibura Salaam (out of this world! Literally. It’s sci-fi Afrofuturism!), all out on Third Man Books so you can buy them locally.
What are three things — excluding faith, family and friends — that you cannot live without?
Pizza, red wine and my Affenpinscher, Gigi Allen (although technically she counts as my friend, my best friend!).
Thank you, Maria, for taking the time to answer our questions! And a special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s gorgeous pictures!
Dr. Chad Swan, a vascular and thoracic surgeon with TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center, and his wife Kelly are this month’s FACES of TriStar. They share their inspiring story of how they dealt with postpartum depression, offer insight on how to identify it, and share where they turned for help when they needed it most. Click here to read their brave story.