Madeline is from Dallas, Texas, and is going into her senior year as a Communication Design major at Washington University in St. Louis. She is currently the Co-editor-in-Chief of Armour magazine and the Design Director of Simple Syrup. Last semester she studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and she has spent this summer living in Brooklyn, New York, while working on the visual team at Man Repeller. We sat down with Madeline at Two Hands in Soho, where we sipped iced tea, ate avocado toast, and listened to her summer experiences in New York City interning at Man Repeller. Her colorful outfit and accessories immediately showed her love of fashion, and confidence to dress in whatever makes her feel best.
Madeline, where did your interest in design start?
“I always had a strong interest in fine arts. I think the shift happened as I got older, and wanted to be able to continue pursuing a creative field, but felt unsure about me as a fine artist. Graphic design is a term thrown around all the time as a more liquidable career, so I gravitated towards it because of that. I know that’s not the most sexy story, but there really wasn’t a lot in high school for me to understand what graphic design really was. I knew I loved drawing and photography, I loved working on the art and literary magazine my high school had, so I figured I’d love whatever design entailed too. Flash forward four years: I love it! Design can be practical, crazy, legible, illegible, unnoticeable, or so noticeable its distracting. I love the opportunity that it harbours.”
You said you have always loved art. Is your family artistic?
“Yeah, they all really are. Although my parents like to say my interest in art initially stemmed from my grandfather (a Southwestern Artist), I think growing up in a creative household is what really nurtured my interest. My mom, dad, and brother all work in creative fields, so going into a similar field was supported. We are all people that are really rooted in creativity. I think that’s why they see the value in what I do.”
Do you have a favorite design project?
“It’s hard being this young and being able to look at a finished [using finished loosely] work, and feel completely proud of it, just because most of the work I undertake has the goal of learning vs. creating something glossy and finished. I think I’ve also become such a design fanatic that I’m frequently looking at work made by professionals, and I compare myself too much to that standard. That being said, projects I am most proud of have been from a team effort. I’ve loved working on projects for armour magazine and Simple Syrup, which are both student magazines at WashU. Starting on these publications as an underclassmen and watching talented co-staff make something amazing, and now being the new leadership is a really satisfying feeling, and I want to keep up their great work.
I think when I’m working alone, I’m most proud of projects where I took a risk, and ended up making something that looked really different than what everyone else was working on around me. I really love pushing my creative ideas into something that looks so energetic. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it really pays off.”
What has your experience been like working at Man Repeller?
“Working at Man Repeller this summer has been an incredible experience. It was truly one of those jobs where I would daydream when I was still in Florence about what it would be like if this could possibly ever happen, before I even applied for the job itself. It was honestly really validating for me; sometimes working so much on personal work can be taxing, and I always hoped it would lead somewhere like this, and when it does, it’s such a happy, personal moment. Especially at Man Repeller, because of the style and body confidence they represent. I would spend hours on their website looking at their style and confidence, and it shaped a lot of my own confidence as well.
The job itself was amazing. I was given a lot of work, and it felt great that they hired me because they really did need an addition to the visual team. My supervisor Emily has been an invaluable mentor, and has really contributed to the feeling of being welcome. I was on the outside of the fashion world as a consumer for so long, and being able to be let in to the creation side of that relationship felt like such a privilege the whole time. I think the team is so conscious of who they are to people, and they truly are as real and supportive as they seem from the outside. It was a dream to be able to be let into that environment. I’ve never felt more confident in myself.”
What advice would you give to someone looking for a similar internship?
“I think it just takes having the hunger and hustle to research places you love, and reach out to them in any way you can think of. It can be so easy to get discouraged by people who never get back to you, but all you really need is for one company to respond. Even if it doesn’t lead to a hiring opportunity right away, a connection is so important. You never want to be the person who just appears when they need something, you know? People are people, and truly they love hearing from fans. So many students have the talent to get to where they hope, but I think the organizational piece is so often forgotten. I have had so many worthwhile conversations with alumni, local companies I admire, or just cold call emails, and whether or not they turned into anything immediately, they’re always pushing your career further. I think if you have the passion, prestige will usually follow.”
What does it mean to you to be powerful?
“I think women are so conditioned to attribute our power and validation to our looks. I think I picked up on this at an early age, noticing how I wasn’t treated the same by my peers or seen as relevant because of how I looked compared to the other girls in my class. This conditioned me to really hone in on what I was good at, and what I loved about myself, and get affirmation from that instead. I have always gotten my self worth from my success as student and as a designer. I’ve become so much more than just how I look. It makes me feel powerful to replace the narrative of “Am I pretty?” to “I am a great worker, designer, friend, daughter, etc.
I think fashion has done a lot for me in feeling powerful as well. It’s the only physical thing about yourself you have complete control over, so have as much fun with it as you can. So many people can make you feel bad about the way you look in ways you cannot control, but no one can make you feel bad about your style, because you chose it.
I also think that being a Hispanic women has impacted how I feel about myself in terms of power, especially in this political climate. I want to be someone other women of color can look at and feel motivated, and encouraged by. I feel stronger looking at women of color who have paved the way for younger women like me, and one day, I hope to be that for younger women as well.”
Do you have a favorite product of piece of clothing?
“I think my favorite clothing items are the ones that I know I love, but would have been too scared to wear in the past. The shoes I’m wearing right now are Camper, a Spanish brand, and I would see these shoes every time I would walk to class in Florence, and feel such a pull towards them. This pair is called the Twins because they are color blocked differently. I think 5 years ago I wouldn’t have bought them, because they were too different. I would have listened to the idea that they are crazy. But I love them. I’ve grown to be so comfortable with myself that when I saw them I was so pulled to them and was like, “yes I have to have those.” This white right is from an artist in Prague that was called Shit Happens. In the past wouldn’t have bought it because I would have thought it was so out there, but today I did, and I love it.
I also love when my mom or grandma pass down jewelry or clothing to me, and I think that is also a staple of my wardrobe. Pretty much all of the jewelry I wear every day, from my earrings, rings, and necklaces, are both from them. I love wearing older generations everyday, because I think it’s interesting seeing how their styling evolves with time.”