Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: Maria Korovilas


Photo courtesy of AAU Publications.

Maria Korovilas, Academy of Art University’s 2017 Distinguished M.F.A. Alumni Award recipient, has been making her mark in the fashion industry since she graduated in 2010. Disenchanted by the poorly made, disposable fashion she saw all around her, Korovilas wanted to create timeless, well-crafted garments that would become modern heirlooms for the women who purchased them. She debuted her first ready-to-wear collection of floaty, ethereal dresses—many made from textiles she designed—with an upscale, bohemian vibe under her Korovilas label in 2012.

 “I started Korovilas with a good friend of mine, Katharine Bernhisel, when neither of us had any money,” said the designer, whose company is based in Los Angeles. “I was able to launch it because I could do everything myself, thanks to the tool kit I received from the Academy. The skills I got in terms of things like pattern drafting and construction were key. Because I understand how a garment is built, I can communicate with the pattern makers, cutters, graders and other people I manage in a way that makes sense to them. I’m really particular about how everything is executed.”

Along with developing a solid foundation in the technical aspects of clothing design while studying fashion at the Academy, Korovilas also gained valuable knowledge in other areas that have been crucial to her success. Examples include marketing and learning how to use Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These skills proved especially helpful when she first started Korovilas and was operating the business on a shoestring budget.


Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Maria Korovilas and Dr. Elisa Stephens. Photo by Bob Toy.

“We did all of our own website stuff and marketing,” she explained. “From A to Z, I came out of the Academy fully-equipped to run the whole show. Knowing all of the different aspects of running the company also helped me stay true to budget.” 

It didn’t take long for Korovilas’s beautiful lace work, hand-beaded embellishments, embroideries and distinct textiles to attract the attention of discerning fashionistas. Today, her growing base of loyal fans includes the actress Blake Lively and country singer Carrie Underwood. Elle, the Los Angeles Times and Women’s Wear Daily are among the numerous publications that have featured her clothing and dubbed Korovilas a young designer to watch. The Korovilas brand is available at high-end retailers such as Anthropology, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus and on

Last year, inspired by dresses she designed for herself and her bridal party for her own wedding, Korovilas debuted The Dreamworld, a capsule collection of non-traditional gowns. Suitable for both weddings and red carpet affairs, the garments blend artisan details such as gold starbursts and daisies with her trademark craftsmanship, luxe fabrics and romantic, bohemian sensibility. The one-of-a-kind dresses are available by private order under a separate label, Maria Korovilas.

Just a few weeks before receiving her Distinguished Alumni Award at the Spring 2017 Commencement ceremony on May 10, the designer and her husband welcomed a baby daughter into their lives. The new mom may not be getting much sleep these days, but juggling the demands of motherhood and her career hasn’t stopped her from thinking about future collections.   

“I’d like to work on a kids clothing line, maybe mommy and me matchy designs, now that I have a daughter,” said Korovilas. “I’d also really like to do some kind of home line—pillow cases, duvets, curtains and that kind of thing because of my background in textile designs. That would be a whole new world for me.”