This is the third in a series of profiles on artists from our new series 'Trailblazers', presented by Adidas, which pairs two young creatives at the beginning of their careers, exploring their process. Check out the trailer for our New York City episode below.
From a temperature-controlled jacket to a wearable EKG monitor, Madison Maxey brings high-tech fashion concepts to the mainstream. The 22-year-old entrepreneur calls herself a “creative technologist,” an apt term given her enterprising résumé. The fashion enthusiast envisions a garment industry that depends just as much on new technologies as it does on traditional methods.
In 2013, she became the first fashion designer to win the prestigious Thiel Fellowship, a $100,000 grant started by Paypal founder Peter Thiel, for high school graduates who want to circumvent college and launch a business. Maxey applied to the grant after she had taken a year off from studying fashion design at Parsons to see if she could start her own business. She also won a scholarship from Teen Vogue, interned at Tommy Hilfiger and Peter Som, and launched her own line of custom-made women’s blazers.
Maxey, who taught herself to sew at the age of eight, now heads The Crated, a design and engineering studio that focuses on fashion and technology. She comes alive when discussing the merits of projects like UV-responsive garments and 3D-printed textiles. “I really enjoy the process of making apparel, fabrics, and garments. I started sewing early and I loved making my own patterns and their sense of geometry,” says Maxey. “I enjoy the process of making something with my hands, and working on programming and 3D printing, really making things—it’s a sort of high you get from the process,” she says with a laugh.
The Crated’s clients include North Face, Milk Studios, and Google, which funded a dress designed by Zac Posen that Maxey infused with multicolored LED lights. Another project, Meld, was an idea for a software that optimised clothing patterns, making production more sustainable and less labor-intensive, especially in countries with a proliferation of sweatshops. Maxey eventually dropped Meld, but it served as an example of her ideas on how to make the garment industry more efficient. “I can still work on Meld but it was a concept, and I like to play with concepts,” she says.
Maxey continues to work on concepts that evolve the fashion industry into a more intuitive field. “I think being a trailblazer is about being willing to follow your convictions and forge a new trail where maybe other people can’t quite see it,” she says. “Another thing is being able to admit that you’re wrong or that you made a mistake when you try a new idea and you don't do a good job at it. There’s a level of humility that has to come with trailblazing, because you’re trying something new you are going to mess up. But that’s part of the fun.”
Click here to learn more about The Crated.