how erin magee is bringing x-girl power back to street fashion
As we exclusively premiere MadeMe’s fall/winter 15 lookbook, find out how the designer’s day job at Supreme inspired her to create a new kind of uniform for today’s generation of riot grrrls.
Erin Magee deals in downtown cool. By day, she's the Director of Development and Production for Lafayette St. legends Supreme, a position she's held for the past 11 years. Before that, she headed up collaborations at Umbro. But since 2007, Magee has also designed MadeMe, a by-girls-for-girls street brand that's out to pick up where Kim Gordon's cult 90s label X-Girl left off. Equal parts Catholic school girl and sneering 70s punk, the brand's fall/winter 15 collection puts a fresh twist on tried-and-true parochial plaids with looks not exactly fit for the Virgin Mary. Today, i-D premieres the Immaculate Collection's lookbook, shot by Natalia Mantini and starring artist Ally Marzella and Manon Macasaet. Before Erin celebrates the collection's launch with a party on September 2 at VFiles, we caught up with her to learn why the world needs more X-Girls.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get into fashion?
Well, a little bit by mistake! I grew up in the 90s in Toronto, and came to the States to play soccer on a college scholarship. The President of Umbro US was a fan of my team -- he even used to ask me to sign autographs after games -- so when I was graduating, he asked if I wanted to work for him. At that time, Kim Jones had also recently graduated and was working on his own line; when he began collaborating with Umbro, I worked on that project. It was my first job and I had no idea what I was doing! But eventually, I started managing Umbro's collaborations in the US. When Supreme reached out to do some collaborative soccer jerseys, I happened to pick up the phone that day and ended up spending a lot of time in their offices. After two seasons of Supreme collaborations, James Jebbia told me he'd like to hire me. That was in 2004, and I've been at Supreme ever since!
What motivated you to launch MadeMe?
MadeMe's been a little bit of a reaction to my day job. I'm constantly around guys talking about men's street fashion: What kind of pants do guys want to wear? What kind of skateboards do guys like? There's this whole other side of me that's interested in all of these things for women, but I just don't have a chance to get it out during the day. I started MadeMe around six or seven years ago, but I only do it when something's really inspiring me-- if there's a look I'm really into or a girl I think is super cool. I look around and see something missing for young women.
Tell us about this season. What were some of your starting points and references?
I'm so into late-70s and early-80s punk. To me, that's the best era in fashion and it's always a starting point, but with slightly more modern and feminine touches to things. This collection is really inspired by the idea of a Catholic school girl falling in love with Johnny Rotten. So the authentic plaids stem from both Catholic school uniforms and that late-70s punk aesthetic.
How does the lookbook illustrate that idea?
The styling is everyday, with full looks. Pairing the pieces together is really how the collection is meant to be seen. And we kept the beauty pretty minimal -- we just wanted to showcase creative, natural style. Both Ally and Manon give off different vibes, but both of those vibes are very MadeMe. They just sort of did their thing, and that was the goal of the lookbook; we really wanted to bring together a younger generation of downtown, cool New York girls and see what we could make out of it.
The collection and lookbook play with the idea of "immaculate." Given the recent viralization of feminism, how have you seen female sexuality evolve?
That's always been another really major reference point. I grew up listening to Bikini Kill and Hole, worshiping Courtney Love. The riot grrrl movement challenged perceptions about female sexuality, so it's really refreshing to see that being discussed so much among younger girls today. That ideology is something I've always known about, but during the mid 2000s, it seemed to disappear completely, especially in the street fashion realm. Goodbye to the X-Girls of the world! All of that just went away. I'm super excited that Manon, Ally and today's girls are living in a world where that's celebrated and becoming the norm again.
The street fashion realm is very male-dominated. Why do you feel women aren't as represented?
Although there are amazing women that do it, the majority of skateboarders really are men. Originally and authentically, Supreme and Palace are both skate brands that have now evolved into larger collections. So I totally understand what shapes these perspectives and I think it's important that they remain true, or brand identity gets diluted. Is it my favorite thing? Not really, but that's why I started MadeMe. I know I keep referencing X-Girl, but I read as much about it and Kim Gordon as I can. There really hasn't been anything like that for women since -- something with a real, authentic girl-power vibe without banging it over your head. That's what I want MadeMe to be. I want it to be on that level and to speak to that girl. I want a girl who would grab a Thrasher or Independent tee to also grab a MadeMe jacket.
What advice would you give young women looking to follow in your footsteps?
It took me a long time to feel comfortable putting my "art" into the world. I always had guys around me that I thought knew more than me or were cooler than me. I was always shy to show my stuff around them and it took me a while to come out of my shell, but as I got older, I just realized, "who fucking cares!" The coolest thing you can ever do is put your shit out there and feel strongly about it and proud of it. To any girl who wants to make an impact, just do it. Don't feel shy about it or care what your boyfriend, what your guy friends, or what any other girl thinks -- just put it out there.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Natalia Mantini, courtesy MadeMe