The Fashion Folk S01 ep14 : Mary McFadden, McFadden Fashion, [New York]
Interview with Mary McFadden
My third signature collection is Maori quilting. All these things look extremely delicate and very artistic and look as if they should be in museums but in fact they're indestructible. The most inportant thing is that you step off a bus or an aeroplane looking perfect and that whatever you pack requires no maintenance.
The label Mary McFadden is involved with a very artistic approach to Fashion
and we developed three particular signatures over the years. One is a
beautiful hand painted fabric, the other is Maori pleating. For the most part it is
cut so they wear it on the vertical, so it flows like a Grecian goddess and that
was my original dream was to create the concept of Grecian goddess in totally
indestructible fibres. And the third signature of the collection is quilting of which
I am wearing one right now. The quilting is also indestructible and it requires
no maintenance what so ever. It travels. All these things look extremely
delicate and very artistic and look as if they should be in museums but in fact
they're indestructible. The most important thing is that you step off a bus or an
aeroplane looking perfect and that you pack, and whatever you pack requires
When I was 13 years old I did want to be a fashion designer but I knew then
that it would be very difficult and by the time I was 17 I became Public
Relations Director for Christian Dior and so I realised then just how difficult it
was to get into the business. My grandfather always said to me "You can't do
anything unless you have something to say" so then I went to Africa, and I
stayed in Africa for 5 years as a journalist and I was editor of Vogue South
Africa so my territory was all of East Africa. I was the first journalist into
Madagascar and I interviewed the emperor Salisi and I thought I’d stay in
Africa forever until the wars of Zimbabwe started and in 1970 and the writing
was on the wall. So I came back to America and I got a job immediately as
editor of Vogue America, and it was at that time I wore these very beautiful
textiles that I had bought back from Madagascar and because the fabrics were
so beautiful and I wore them to work at Vogue they asked if they could
photograph me for the cover of Vogue. So there I was modelling my dresses
and then they said to me you know we are running all these pages on you in
Vogue and we need a merchandising credit.
So I went over to Henry Bendell, who at that time I was interviewing and doing
a story on Geraldine Stutts who was the president of Henry Bendell. I said
“Look you are going to get six pages in Vouge, so just buy these things”. She
said certainly and then I said well you know I don't know how to break them, I
need a technician. So she sent me over to a person who worked for the
Bendell studio called Mitsu. Mitsu saw these beautiful textiles, like these
textiles of this jacket. He saw these beautiful textiles and said I will leave my
business and I shall come with you. So he found a little tiny room in a
basement in the middle of August with out any air conditioning and one mirror
over the sink and one seamstress so that we produced what we needed to for
our delivery dates - September 1 to Henri Bendell.
When we delivered the product Geraldine Stutts said I shall give you a press
show free, which she did, and from that Press show I sold a million dollars
worth of merchandise.
KM: So in other words you were propelled into the fashion business.
And so then I decided to make a career change, from Journalist to fashion
designing - my mother was horrified, because she always thought I was a
better writer than I would ever be a designer.
KM What is your vision of fashion?
Well what I've been doing over this period of time I have been re interpreting
many ancient civilisations - I have studied the Myan Civilisation, pre
Columbian, Astecs civilisation, and have done collections based on their
images. I really stopped for the most part at the end of the 16th century with
the medici period.
I have done several collections based on the Lampa silks. The Lampa Silks
were the time of Ghengis Khan
And they were done in what you would call then I suppose the royal workshops
in Tashkent and they meshed together the three great civilisations, the
Byzantine artists with the central Asian artists and the Chinese artists.
You can never run out of cultures to discover - this last collection is based on
Assyria - it is a period about 700BC - it is on the great Sacheras of Nimrod and
Nineveh, and Sargon 1. There are fantastic relief’s at the Met and cuneiform
writing is beautiful. It is such a unique period in History that just suddenly
disappeared as the Syrians were conquered, of course.
And when you get conquered just like the Mayans its is gone, I mean you can
wipe out a language and the glyphs, an entire civilisation in one thousand
I bought some beautiful 18th century Japanese kimonos that I wear. When I
worked in cashmere the director, whose father was the Maharaja of Kapura
which is outside of Lachnow - he gave me his fathers Mougelle Cloth, which is
transparent cotton, which is chicken walk on it but it has been starched to such
a degree that it keeps its shape on you, and even though I am small I can
wear this type of cloth because the cloth is so transparent and fragile.
KM: Did you get tickled when the museum started putting your things up as
examples of period fashion?
Yeah I was thrilled to have my cloths in the MET, or to have any of these
fashion... or have them collected.
KM: Do you still do fittings yourself with important clients.
I do fittings every day
Yeah, right here it is all haute courtier. People understand beautiful things and
I think I know how to touch them.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Mary McFadden, McFadden Fashion, New York