Designer Maria Pinto going out of business

Fashion designer Maria Pinto is seen in her boutique in Chicago on Dec. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/David Banks)

March 15, 2010 2:58:26 PM PDT
First lady Michelle Obama made her famous by wearing her creations. But now fashion designer Maria Pinto is closing her shop in Chicago.

Chicago-based designer Maria Pinto will be closing her West Loop boutique and company in a few days. Her investors and some of her best customers were in the store Monday to take advantage of her liquidation sale at 50 to 70 percent off.

"Our store was doing very well. But our retailers were really struggling. We sell to other stores, and they're struggling, and so that's what really caused a lot of our problems," said Pinto.

Pinto has been in business for 20 years.

"So my destiny is moving me to another place. I'm not sure what that is. It sounds painful because it is my baby but one has to be strong and move on," said Pinto.

It is not the first time that Pinto has gone out of business. She was forced to close her evening wear business in 2002.

"You're never prepared. You have to take life, the path of life with dignity and grace and do what you have to do to get through it," said Pinto.

Pinto, designer to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, said that was not enough to keep her in business.

"In building a brand, visibility is everything. Dressing celebrities, dressing Michelle and Oprah has helped me tremendously. Of course, it is at a time that is very difficult. As much as it helped, there are other factors that didn't help," said Pinto.

"I'm exceedingly sad to not see her in the city, as I rely on her for all my evening pieces," said Deb Gross, Pinto customer.

"This is just the closing of a store," said Leslie Cavanaugh, Pinto customer.

Pinto says she will be back.

"I'm here. I just need to take a break. I will be in fashion for sure but in some new facet. I think the whole industry is changing," said Pinto.

Pinto's store will be open for a liquidation sale from March 16 to March 20.