Written by Juan Pedro Cámara
The world of Maria Brito is often psychedelic. She is not afraid to cover it all in bold patterns and acid tones. Anything, from the spaces she designs, to her numerous collaborations and fashion lines, to the choices she consciously makes in styling her own body, is subjected to the vibrancy to show proof. An art consultant, interior designer and author, the Venezuelan entrepreneur has worked with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Sean Combs. This editorial shoot for Sara Cristina serves as a vehicle through which Brito explores her relationship to her body, and the intersections of design, art and freedom.
As an art consultant and interior designer you navigate around that fluid line between art and design. Where do you locate that difference?
What I do as an advisor is to carefully and strategically help my clients match their desires, their taste, their space and their budget with the right art pieces and artists, so they can build an art collection that makes sense. Since I'm independent, own no gallery and owe my salary to myself, my clients trust that the recommendations I'm making are truthful and weighed against many other options. The fine line between the two important pillars of my business which are art and design is that design is a bit more structured, a field where you try to put order, to solve a problem, whether the design is of a living room, a chair or a handbag. Art is really the rebel, the no-rules-attached. Aesthetically, culturally and emotionally, the art is always more important. The design is the context that surrounds the art at any particular time. The art always prevails.
You have been described as a luxury lifestyle consultant. From your perspective, what is the role of art and design in contemporary lifestyle?
The world of luxury is overused and the truth is that when everything is "luxury" then nothing is. Living with good design, comfortably and owning a great art collection that is original and fun is a luxury. Being a pioneer, expressing yourself in whatever way you want and taking risks is a luxury. It's the opposite of following the greatest hits of what your neighbor has, you know, the typical "keeping up with the Joneses" approach where people buy things just because they think it has a brand name or certain status even though that person may have no clue why they are buying that particular piece of art, or that specific table.
How do you negotiate your own taste with the requirements of your clients?
I think a lot of my clients know what they are getting into with me. They have done their due diligence, seen my projects, followed me on Instagram. But I do adapt and listen a lot to what they want. They are the clients at the end of the day. However, I have clients whose taste is very different from mine, but they still are attracted to things that are good, beautiful and that have cultural significance. It all depends on the client, sometimes I meet them in the middle or even 3/4 closer to their view. With others, I push bit by bit and before you know it, they are seeing things through my eyes.
How is the process different when you design for yourself? How would you describe your own personal style?
I'm my own lab and will try as many outrageous color, time-period and style combinations as possible. I have grown and evolved. Each project has lead to the other and something has been transformed along the way, for me and for my clients. I don't like being stuck, that's why, if I can say so myself, I'm always innovating. My personal style has also gone through transformations, I think I'm more fearless now. I'm a total lover of patterns, metallics and bold colors. I love structured pieces but also happy on a more low key, boho dress.
What key relations do you observe between fashion and interior design?
Both fields have to be creative to be successful and by creative I mean original, not just copying what the other is doing or playing safe with beige and the same Scandinavian tables and chairs that everyone has. What's the point of that? Fashion and interior design get all their energy from colors, shapes and details. I appreciate and have even designed spaces with more muted color palettes, but if that's the case, the shapes, the structures, the materials have to be unique, rich and special.
What differences do you find in styling your body vs styling your space?
Fashion is more ephemeral, there's a specific moment to wear something, sometimes a piece of clothing can be forever in one's closet but you don't wear it everyday. A lot of fashion is a trend, however expensive, and it will go away in six months. In interior design you have to live with that design, at least for a while, so it requires more thinking, more planning and more conviction.
How would you describe your relationship to your own body? What role does fashion play in this relation?
Every woman -at least every woman that I know- goes through phases with their bodies. I went from the weird confusion of the teenage years to the insecurities of the twenties to the miracle of becoming a mother in my thirties and then to make peace with my body and respect it for the absolutely incredible machine that it is and all the amazing things that the body can do. Fashion is fantasy. I like the idea of playing with fashion, with colors, proportions, materials. Of course the clothes have to fit me nicely, and I have to carry them with personality and strength.
You just shoot a swimwear editorial. How do you feel exposing your skin?
When I was asked to do a shoot for Sara Cristina, I really liked the idea because I love taking a risk. There was a time, in past generations, where a woman who had a career and children was kind of a rarity. And after having children it was like the death of the body or the death of sexuality and all the fun. Women have come such a long way ever since. I'm proud to run a business, be married, have kids and have a body that is alive and well and that I have chosen to nurture, honor and celebrate in every possible way.
In your opinion where does confidence emerges from? Do you think design, as a means of self expression, has any part in building it?
Confidence comes from experience and from spirit. People who are too ego-driven or who had very wounded and unhealed episodes in their lives tend to be very insecure. There was a point in my life where I finally understood that I had to turn it over to God. That's humbling but it is empowering, because if God can't, then nobody can. And it's not like a hippie, happy-go-lucky leaving it all randomly to God, but more like knowing very well what I want and seeing things unfold around that goal according to God's plan. Confidence also comes from knowledge, education and culture. Being informed of what's happening, being smart, being well-read, having a critical mind, sometimes having an opposing point of view even if people will ruffle their feathers, that's the ultimate confidence for me. As I mentioned above, design has a more structured and organized approach than art. So as self-expression yes, it can definitely convey confidence but combined with art it becomes the utmost expression of confidence.
Photography by Conrado Véliz, Creative Direction by David De Lima.