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Marika Contompasis: Art to Wear and Sustainable Art

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Marika Contompasis and her brother, Charles Contompasis, founders of Marika Charles and its offshoot, MA+CH Studio in Schenectady, New York, truly create fashion from an artist’s vision! Art to wear is what she categorizes their genre as.

This incredibly ambitious, creative team began working together to develop collections of women’s art-focused fashion in 2002. They recently expanded application of their refined techniques to include textile art and design for home decor. Each has years of experience in women’s knitwear, textile design and printing. Marika and Charles attended the Pratt Institute in New York City and went on to successful careers before combining their unique talents.

Art in Their DNA
Marika has exhibited in such prestigious locales as the Smithsonian, MoMA and Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Art, among others, and she is an included artist in the Metropolitan Museum of Art permanent costume collection. She is also the recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts award. Her collections have been sold by prestigious retailers including Barney’s New York, Fred Segal and Bergdorf Goodman.

Charles’ passion for fabrics and art led to a career in textile design and production. It began with original hand paintings under the name Keryakos, which grew to include building a state-of-the art textile printing and dyeing complex. His focus on creating these new printing techniques, which include the unique Phly-Dye® they utilize today, has led to several patents and trademarks. 

“My brother is co-designer and his wife, Laurie Ives, is an integral part of our team and the sensible one with two crazy artists to handle! We also have an incredible team of talented people who help us create and execute our vision at our home base in Schenectady,” she smiled. “It’s what I’ve done all my life; I studied industrial design at Pratt because I thought that would be really creative and commercial. I wanted to stay in the creative field. I wouldn’t be good at anything else. Charles felt that way too. He stayed in the textile business his whole life. When we did orientation at Pratt, they told us that we would have a great time at art school but only a few of us would earn a living. I was determined that I would be one of those people and Charles agreed.”

Experience Woven Together
The collaboration has been beyond anything they could imagine. This life is a culmination of each soul’s past youth and beginnings. Her industrial design training gave Marika a good perspective, and she taught herself knitting and crochet, then attended school for furniture design and began to create one-of-a-kind pieces she sold. “What I was doing as an artist in the ’70s became kind of a movement,” she explained. “Things were so beautifully made, and everything we did was finely tailored. What we do now is a combination of what Charlie has done his whole life, and my work. My art-to-wear pieces have been in shows all over the country.”

Marika lived in Los Angeles for some years, and as a fine artist, one often spends time isolated alone with her imagination. In 2001, she wanted to do something that allowed more communication and interaction with people and community, so she moved to Upstate New York. She began to have the conversation with her brother about joining together, since he knows everything about dye and how to set up a factory, and his wife, Laurie, knows how to manage a business. “The three of us were a perfect combination from the start,” she exuded. “Charles is a wizard! His patented Phly-Dye is a process he invented. He had his own business in Schenectady, Twin Rivers, and printed yardage of the stretch fabric popular in the ’70s and ’80s for T-shirts, leggings and all kinds of products.”

Eco-Conscious Art
They still use several of his machines in their factory. They make prototypes for cashmere sweaters and entire collections they sell five times a year. All collections are designed and developed in America using cotton from across southern states that is knit into cloth in North Carolina, then cut and sewn into blank garments in Pennsylvania. Every piece is then dyed and printed in their New York studio. Their silks are made in America, and sweaters are made to their specifications overseas. The garments are then dyed, painted and printed in the studio, with their process that uses limited wasted fabric, dye and energy. Phly-Dye is also responsible for the unmistakable look MA+CH garments have, affording designers use of the entire color spectrum and complete control of patterning.

Marika and Charles make a conscious effort to further limit waste, making their own fiber-reactive colors and dyes, and only in the amounts needed. Each garment is printed and dyed whole, leaving no unused scraps of dyed fabric. All are made to order, specifically based on the requests of retailers. That same process is now being applied to upholstery fabric for chairs, couches, wallpaper and more, extending the textile art to creative color for home décor.

Marika and Charles grew up in Schenectady, and theirs is a very close family who worked together all their lives. Her grandfather started a produce business, then had four sons and a daughter. The four sons were required to go into that business, so her dad, Ernest, followed suit. Her mom, Catherine, stayed home and raised Marika and her four siblings.

Sources of Inspiration
Thomas Lopez, her husband, is a writer who crafts stories for audio dramas, which he records in their home studio. They live on a farm in upstate New York near Saratoga. 

Outside of Marika Charles and MA+CH Studio, Marika is a fine artist, and many of her textile designs have been on exhibit in museums across the country. One includes a famously designed kimono that was featured in the book Art to Wear by Julie Schafler Dale. The kimono is the product of an artist’s imaginative dream. 

“It’s a piece I made in 1973. I wanted to make a piece of clothing that would lie flat on the wall, so it would be an art piece. The kimono really works that way. The inspiration for the fish design came when I was fishing in the Rocky Mountains for the first time in my life. I threw my line out and caught a fish the first time. I used that image on my kimono,” she related. “Whatever you are thinking about kind of blends into your life. That was a really inspiring place.”

Daily, she finds inspiration. When she wakes up in the morning, she thinks of what her dreams were; it’s not that they are reflected in her work but rather that they are part of her consciousness. Like many artists, she tries to always be in touch with an unconscious or subconscious world. “Your work may take many forms throughout your life, but there’s a thread that’s in everything you do,” she mused.

When asked advice she would give other women desiring to follow their dreams, she thoughtfully responded, “Have a lot of confidence. Don’t be afraid, and you have to work hard. It has to be work you like and something you love all the time. You can work eight hours a day at something you don’t like, and round-the-clock with something you do like.”

In addition to this mindful, creative job, Marika enjoys cooking, entertaining and being around people. She is also a voracious reader and can be found consistently walking around with a book in her hand. “I’m very lucky and grateful,” she reflected.

Appreciation, creative spirit, love of life, family and all things art. It is a dream existence. We should all incorporate her philosophy into our own daily lives to find our inner artist.

For more information on MA+CH STUDIO, visit Also, be on the lookout for special times during the year when the studio opens its doors for a factory outlet sale. Find them on Instagram at matchcollection and Pinterest.