Mara Ladines is a Deaf, Asian, female business owner living in “The Big Apple”. She has a small clothing store in Dumbo, Brooklyn called By Mara which features the “I Love You” symbol in American Sign Language.
When Mara was an undergraduate at University in Los Angeles, California, she majored in Fashion Design and Production. Her goal was to work in the fashion industry one day. The unique design of the “I Love You” symbol was created when she was required to construct an original logo for a class assignment. With her success in school and her logo established, Mara was well on her way to achieving her goal. However, the communication barriers she encountered as a Deaf individual in the fashion industry proved to be challenging. There was no accessibility, so that’s when Mara decided to go her own way. Her business started organically when she made a few t-shirts with her logo for a fashion show she hosted at her graduation. Many of her friends and relatives kept asking where they could buy the shirts, so she decided to set up a business. When By Mara launched in 2008, it had only two products. Today, By Mara has expanded into a countrywide business with 100 products on the line! These products are available online, in-store, and at various festivals.
The numerous people that support American Sign Language and the Deaf community keep Mara motivated every day. She hopes she can reciprocate by providing inspiration from her “I Love You” logo. It does not merely represent love and peace. It helps bring awareness to the Deaf community by encompassing an in-depth, collaborative meaning, connecting to the Deaf history of oppression, struggle, language, culture, identity, and so much more. Mara has seen more and more Deaf-owned businesses being established over the years and it is wonderful. She finds it great to collaborate with others and see how American Sign Language is taking off!
Looking back now, Mara wonders if she had continued to pursue a career in the fashion industry, if By Mara would have ever been established? She is incredibly happy with By Mara and where she is today. She looks forward to continuing to educate people through her journey.