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  • Writer's pictureClarice MacGarvey

Exmore Business Captures Eye of Brooks Brothers CEO; Enters Sustainability-Focused Partnership

When Exmore entrepreneur Maria Cielo Mandaro launched Daddy's Little Dress Shirts four years ago, she had passion for her ideas and a vision for success. She didn't dream however, that one day, out of the blue, she would receive a call from retail powerhouse, Brooks Brothers. The message: "Our CEO loves what you do!" Not only that, Brooks Brothers, an icon in men's fashion for over two centuries, wanted to collaborate with Maria. For Father's Day. And beyond.

That initial phone call came in July 2021, but Covid created a delay. In fact, Covid slowed business down so significantly, Maria had to pivot quickly and began making face masks for kids. Now, the Brooks Brothers partnership is in place, timed for this year's Father's Day gift giving. And dads are certain to be touched and pleased with what they receive.

Maria creates heirlooms from men's dress shirts, repurposing the fabric into custom dresses, rompers, skirts and accessories for children using her own original designs and her skills as a seamstress. She even works with military uniforms transforming the adult shirts and jackets into child-sized garments that can be passed down through generations.

"This is the ultimate in recycling," says Maria, a fourth-generation seamstress with roots in the Dominican Republic. "We're creating memories for families and at the same time leaving a positive impact on the environment."

Maria's partnership with Brooks Brothers is focused on reducing their retail waste by creating a more sustainable business model for unsold merchandise. According to news statistics, the U.S. alone wastes 11.3 million tons of fabric each year. The Manhattan-based company will send the shirts that didn't sell to Maria for transformation into stylish children's clothing that will sell. This is a win-win for everyone, including the environment.

In her short time as a business owner, Maria has developed clients nationwide. Currently, she ships to all 50 states and internationally to Canada, Italy and other countries. Visit the Daddy's Little Dress Shirts studio in the Duer Building and you will see only three sewing machines with Maria at one, working in tandem with two other seamstresses she employs. The collaboration with Brooks Brothers will call for more machines and more talented hands, for sure. Maria is confident this is just the beginning of partnerships with major retail firms. And she considers it both ironic and foreshadowing that the label on the very first shirt sent to her for repurposing when her business was just starting, said "Brooks Brothers."

Congratulations, Daddy's Little Dress Shirts! Exmore will be tuned in for your next milestone.

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