In a past life, a typical workday for Maya Dahlgreen consisted of planting herself in front of her computer screen and bracing for the flood of emails, all the while secretly daydreaming about the collection of vintage fabrics in her studio, and awaiting her lunch break—her free moment to sew.
Today, instead of fielding corporate messages and meeting invites for a digital merchandising job at Nike, Dahlgreen’s inbox is filled with personal thank yous from happy customers and design commissions. And her makeshift in-home sewing studio—an organized mess of scrap bins and discarded fabric bolts from Joann—is no longer a tempting workday distraction. It’s her new office.
In 2020, Dahlgreen debuted Maya Meyer: a sustainable clothing line made from preloved vintage fabrics. She began by showcasing her loosely fitted designs on Instagram, initially selling pieces to friends. Before long, her side hustle took off among Portland’s vintage resale community, and what was once a creative outlet for pandemic-fueled boredom unexpectedly transformed into a full-time gig.
Now, on weekends, you might find Dahlgreen “Goodwill hunting,” scouring for anything that could potentially be turned into a dress—sheets from the ’70s, wool blankets, funky tablecloths, even shower curtains. “I’m not a technical seamstress,” Dahlgreen says—she never learned how to use regular patterns, so she makes her own. A Maya Meyer original is flowy and big (think babydoll and empire dresses, or peasant and puffed-sleeve blouses), organically shaped, and uniquely fitted for varying body types. About 10 percent of Dahlgreen’s clientele are maternity customers, and she says she is working to create even more versatility in sizing.
Alongside Dahlgreen’s inventive patterns and inclusive sizing, sustainability is a huge draw.
“The whole point of it to me is, ‘no more new stuff,’” she says. “I actually feel like I’m making a difference. I might not make much of a difference, but at least I’m not contributing to the problem.”
Although Dahlgreen has been sewing since high school, graduated from the Art Institute of Portland with a degree in fashion merchandising, and spent nine years working in the corporate fashion world, she’d only ever viewed clothing design as a passion project. Her realistic approach to business (monthly goals and deadlines) keeps her grounded, but that’s not to say she isn’t having any fun.
“I was never wanting to start my own business. That’s way too risky for me,” Dahlgreen says. “I know that most things like this don’t work ... and if it does work out, then I have a pretty sweet little deal that I love to do.”