Maria Cornejo, Designer


"As a kid, I always used to make clothes. My grandmother made everything with me—she taught me how to knit. I had this doll, and I would knit her outfits. I didn't think I was clever enough to do anything else. My chemistry teacher wanted me to do chemistry and my art teacher wanted me to do art. Fashion seemed like a good in-between—using your brain, but being creative. I ended up going to design school in London, but I really feel like I found my voice here in New York, to be honest. I'm much more of myself now than I was then.

The fashion business got boring. I was working with big companies, but the minute it became too formulaic, I got bored with it. I wanted to do a creative space, where I could just make stuff—kind of like an atelier, where I could collaborate with other artists, drape geometric shapes on the body, make cushion covers, or whatever. For me, it's not about fashion design. It's about being creative, working with a team, evolving ideas. You start with a fabric first and see what it's doing—rarely does it start as a closed concept. It's more of a feeling, which can be quite tortuous, really. [Laughs] Well, not so much now. I've gotten better at communicating myself, I think.

Lately I've been waking up at 5:30, which is not fun. The sun's been rising earlier and my husband hates curtains—I don't want to wake up at 5:30! It drives me insane. Normally I sleep in until 7, and most days I go right into the office. On Tuesdays, though, I stay home and do work. I need a day when I'm not in meeting after meeting. You need time to try to get into your head again and see what's next.

Every morning I take a shower, and I'm obsessive about brushing. I first learned about it in Turkey—they took all of this dead skin off and I was like, 'Oh my God, that's disgusting.' So now I'm obsessive about it. I just use a really hard body brush from CVS—it wakes you up and really gets your circulation going. The more I brush, the better my skin feels. If I travel and I forget my brush, I end up feeling dirty and saggy. I get home and brush and I feel amazing again. Afterwards, I use this body oil from Red Flower that I love. All of her bath products are fantastic.

I'll brush my face, too, with the Clarisonic. I like that it gives you a massage, and it helps because I need a natural lift. I don't do any Botox or any of that... Not yet, because I never say never. But it tones out your face and your facial muscles.

I use the Shiseido Extra Rich Cleansing Foam with the Clarisonic. It's quite creamy, and the creaminess negates the toughness of the Clarisonic for me. After I do that my face gets red, and I can feel the circulation. I'll use a toner too, and I go between the Shiseido one and this Avalon Organics Perfecting Toner. Then serum—I do the Tracie Martyn Serum and the Resculpting Cream. I love that they're organic, and you really feel them working, 'cause I've tried other things that are organic and they're not that good. I go to Tracie for facials, too, and it's basically like getting a face lift. I wanted to get one before this [shoot] but I didn't have time!

During the day I wear SPF, too. I like to tan. I used to never wear SPF, but I'm getting better. Dick Page told me that I should be wearing sunblock, but I think it's a little late to start at my age. Usually, I don't even stay outside long enough to worry about the sun—and I don't like sunbathing, so I don't see the point. The Shiseido SPF 38 is good because it's super light. I hate that cakey feeling.

There's a Shiseido eye cream I use during the winter, but in the summer I just put serum everywhere. I also read this thing that mentioned there's nothing different about eye creams, they're just full of shit. But my 75-year-old aunt looks amazing, and she used to put Vaseline around her eyes everything night. I don't do anything at night. I'm lazy. No makeup wipes, nothing. I do all my skincare in the morning—at night, forget it. All I want to do is pass out.

For my hair, I do a little bit of Phytoelixir Oil. I discovered that brand when I was in Paris, before I moved to New York. It's really big in France. The oil gives my hair more weight—I hate it when my hair feels clean. And it's so dyed and old now, I even shaved half of it because it's so heavy... oil just feels nice. Sometimes after I finish using the Red Flower body oil I use the rest in my hair, and I have the Nars Monoi Oil, too.

My shampoo is Hairstory New Wash, but I have the Phytoelixir one, too. I get it colored at my local hairdresser. Otherwise, I do it myself, or I'll go gray. I like going gray. If I'm feeling tanned and healthy, then I don't mind the grays, but if I'm feeling tired and old, I'll get my hair colored. It depends on the mood, and how stressed out I am.

On most women, I think a little color looks nice. I love this Nars Lipstick in Pigalle—it's my favorite right now. I wouldn't consider it a nude... It just looks like you bit your lip and drew them color on them. It's not lipstick-lipstick, but I can also do red. I have the new Shiseido one from their red collection, Poppy. It just lifts up your face.

My eyeliner is Nars Unrestricted Matte Eyeliner, which I just use on the top waterline and in the inner corner on the bottom to make me look a little awake. Or I hope so. The Chanel Precision Eye Definer I like as well, but it's brown, and I prefer black. I don't wear mascara, but I do curl my eyelashes every day. If I don't, they smudge my glasses. I use the Revlon Eyelash Curler. I used to have the nicer Shiseido one, but it was in my other makeup bag, which got stolen. I'm really upset about that.

Luckily, I still have my blush—Shiseido Luminizing Blush in Tea Rose. Blush is something I wear every day—Dick told me that if I put blush on, it makes me look 10 seconds younger. [Laughs] When I need a bit of a facelift, I use Nars Laguna on my neckline as a shader. And this is the foundation that I love, Nars Sheer Glow in Syracuse. It's light, and I think as you get older, you can't have things caked on you, because they get in the wrinkles. I tend to keep it simple for the day, but I'll add more makeup for nighttime. Like, if I have a look on New Year’s Eve, I’ll wear glitter on my eyes or something silly. Every once in a while, it’s nice to do a weird-colored eyeliner.

Right now, I'm using Byredo Oud Immortel. I also just started wearing Jo Malone Sorrel and Lemon Thyme, which my mother-in-law gave me. That's fresh for the summer. It smells a bit like Jour d'Hermès. I had this one by Escentric Molecules that they don't make anymore. It was called Beautiful Mind—it had a red hologram on the bottle. But they discontinued it. I'm so pissed.

I like scents that are quite androgynous—I don't like florals too much. I tend to wear deeper, muskier things. I actually made a candle that smells like all of my favorite things. A friend introduced me to Frederick Joya and we got on really well—I told him I wanted something that smelled like me walking into a room [Laughs] and it took a while to get it right. Some of it smells quite figgy, quite smoky. It's got guaiac wood, wild grass, rose-tanned leather, cedar, thyme, pale musk—so basically all of the things that I like, but with fancy names on them. And it's all made in Brooklyn, which I like. It was a labor of love, truly."

—as told to ITG

Maria Cornejo photographed by Tom Newton at her home in Brooklyn on May 18, 2017.