exclusive: mademe x me and you's new collaboration celebrates female strength
We meet the NYC girl power brands' fantastically freckled model, Salem Mitchell, to talk overcoming social media hate and loving the skin you’re in.
Erin Magee's by girls, for girls label MadeMe has served up modern incarnations of Sex Pistols meets Catholic school girl plaid, and pastel punk takes on classic Hole lyrics. But for her newest venture, Magee has momentarily (she's got a collaboration with Kim Gordon in the works, after all) pressed pause on musical inspiration and instead turned her focus to dance. Teaming up with bedroom dreamer BFFs Mayan Toledano and Julia Baylis of feminist clothing brand Me and You, MadeMe's new girl power collaboration celebrates the tenacity and grace of ballerinas.
"The ballerina concept was born one day in a meeting on my kitchen counter. We wanted to do something that was equally feminine and tough," Magee tells us of the capsule, which consists of durable thermal briefs and long sleeve shirts printed with illustrations of the dexterous dancers. "Our goal was to use a subject matter that represented women how we see them: resilient, strong, and beautiful."
Searching for a model to star in the collaboration's lookbook images, Mayan and Julia found Salem Mitchell -- a 17-year-old Southern California native with a gorgeous face full of freckles -- on Instagram's Explore page. The pair road tripped from LA to Salem's house in San Diego to hang out with the high school senior and her friends as they got ready for a school dance. "Her look is so unique and special, and you can really see how cool she is through what she posts. We just had to plan a trip to go meet her!" Mayan and Julia add.
Mitchell is a perfect match for both MadeMe and Me and You: though she's endured hurtful and hateful comments from internet trolls about her freckles, she's chosen to celebrate the uniqueness of her beauty by teaming up with other creative women to make something positive and empowering. "I am always excited to collaborate with other women who share similar goals," says Magee. "Working with other creative women in my same space says a lot; it says we're here to support one another, celebrate each other's accomplishments, make some great stuff, and not compete with one another! GIRLS TO THE FRONT!!"
We catch up with Erin, Mayan, Julia, and Salem to learn more about the MadeMe x Me and You collaboration and why beauty is bigger than likes or swipes.
How did you guys find Salem?
Me and You: On the Explore page on Instagram -- literally! We were in LA for a couple weeks then made the trip down to San Diego one weekend to photograph her. It was the cutest thing because she was home with her best friends getting ready to go to her school dance, so we basically got to hang out with them and her friend best friend, Dajuan, all day. At Me and You, we always talk about the importance of friendship and support, so we loved seeing her world and how important and special her friends were to her.
What inspired you to photograph her for this collaboration?
Me and You: Both MadeMe and Me and You are all about powerful girls and promoting that culture. Salem is someone we had an instant crush on; she's so self-assured at such a young age and fully represents both brands' message. We really just wanted to capture her in an easy, relaxed way and in her "natural habitat." What is cool about the thermal set is it something you could wear to bed, but also just with a pair of jeans or overalls and still feel the comfort as if in your PJs.
Hi Salem! Tell us about yourself.
Salem Mitchell: Hi! My name is Salem Mitchell, I'm 17-years-old and I'm from San Diego. I'm a senior in high school, so as of right now, I'm just preparing to graduate and figure what my next chapter is going to be. I'm definitely interested in modeling, a little bit of fashion, I kinda like to cook, and I'm just into having fun with my friends.
Let's talk about your freckles. Have your feelings about them changed over time? Have other people's perceptions ever impacted your opinion of your own beauty?
Salem: Honestly I've always loved my freckles, I think it's because my mom also has a face full of freckles and I really look up to her, so growing up seeing the person I love most look just like me contributed to my confidence. I've never been seriously impacted by others' perceptions of me and my appearance and I think that's because I wasn't really exposed to people saying negative things about me until I was older and already pretty secure within myself.
What are some comments you received? How has it impacted your life and your outlook?
SM: As I began gaining "popularity" on social media, surprisingly, there were a lot of people who weren't very familiar with someone having a lot of freckles and my face began to be the punchline of a series of slightly rude jokes. People would constantly compare me to bananas, cheetahs, and all sorts of random things. The comments themselves never really hurt my feelings because they were silly, but the effort people put in to try and make me feel bad was a little hurtful. What I've learned is you can't ever let anyone else's opinions change how you see yourself. Once I showed that I was happy, confident, and not affected by what people said about me, the negative comments died down.
We think and write a lot about both sides of social media -- how it can be an incubator for creativity and connectivity, but simultaneously harbors so much hate and violence. How do you see its impact on today's young women?
SM: I've had the chance to communicate with tons of fantastic people who inspire and support me. There are so many opportunities and so many outlets to share positivity. I honestly believe the hate broadcast on social media comes from people who need attention -- people who aren't comfortable with who they are so they choose to bring people down rather than channel their energy into the positive aspects of life. I think social media really has become a place where young women are often seen uplifting each other and expressing themselves freely. More frequently, I've been seeing a lot of very well known people speak up about feminism and so many people trying to challenge "traditional" standards of beauty which is incredible to me. In comparison to what I've seen in the past, social media is becoming more about spreading creativity and uplifting one another rather than spreading hate.
What would you tell young people who are going through something similar?
SM: I would tell other young people to build self-confidence, keep loving and supporting people around you, and focus on how you feel about yourself and not the way others feel about you.
Erin, you've worked with artist Ally Marzella, photographer Petra Collins, and now the Me and You team. What is it about this generation that keeps you inspired?
EM: All of the girls you mentioned are so young and have such a vast positive influence on youth culture today. Whether it be through art, photography, or clothing design they're all creating a career path on their own terms, which is so inspiring! MadeMe will continue to be a brand that works with these types of young women, encouraging and supporting their journeys any way we can.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Mayan Toledano and Julia Baylis