Photo by Siyaka Taylor-Lewis. All photos courtesy of Milk Made
In 2009, the bottom fell out of the world economy and frivolous endeavors folded left and right, leaving creatives out in the streets like cartoon characters wearing barrels. This is the climate in which MADE Fashion Week was born, and since then, it has risen to the fore of New York Fashion week, due to huge amounts of hard work, collaboration, and love. Every year there’s another article about the cost of putting on a full-fledged fashion show in New York. Cost prohibitive is a light way of putting it, with bills for even the smallest affairs reaching tens of thousands of dollars (though most get closer to the hundreds of thousands).
In a nutshell, MADE offers fledgling designers a runway space and crew free of charge but more importantly it provides an audience—a serious, forward-driven audience comprised of the people who ultimately make shit happen. And it's worked. The first year MADE launched, the founders saw it as a one or two year project with the number of participating designers hovering at around 40. That was five years ago, and it’s now grown to become an indispensable ally of designers—for the young and established alike.
Upon entering the primary MADE space at Milk Studios on 15th street in Chelsea, you notice the illustrated shirts gracing the backs of the omnipresent, cheery staff of interns. Even these shirts have been commissioned, this season two members of rapper Travis $cott’s crew drew the designs, a mouth with its tongue out, and text beneath it that says “There is no other side." It’s tongue in cheek, literally, as there are many sides to MADE Fashion Week.
Photo by BFA
MADE was founded when Milk Studios co-owner Mazdack Rassi (simply referred to as ‘Rassi’ by anyone I spoke with) teamed up with Jenné Lombardo, a then-senior executive at MAC Cosmetics. “The first thing we talked about was getting the foremost production in the world, to let everyone know we meant business. It was important to us that this would be a product of expertise.”
They also brought on premiere producer and MADE co-Founder Keith Baptista, who’s produced (and still produces) runway shows for the likes of Chanel and other high fashion staples. And this expertise won out—with present day NYFW all-stars like Altuzarra, Billy Reid, and Proenza Schouler all having had some of their first shows and presentations under the MADE banner. To put this type of trajectory in perspective, earlier this week I stumbled into a launch party for Altuzarra’s new diffusion line with dignified corporate cosigners Target. Expansion and growth is the goal, and the team at MADE couldn’t be happier.
“Designers and creatives don’t ‘grow out’ of MADE,” says Barnett A. Zitron Managing Director of MADE. “Our family just gets bigger and bigger each year with designers, artists, musicians, and all their incredible cohorts”
Each designer has their own pyramid below them, their support system of stylists, make up people, models, and more that make up their look, lifestyle, their (god help us) vision. It’s MADE’s intention to make their individual vision fit into their program and open to their multitude of resources. This courtesy isn’t limited to designers involved in their program, but is extended to the media who participate as well, serving everyone equally.
Providing a suitable outlet for the people in the fashion industry's in between—the bloggers, students, fledgling designers—might seem like a rebellion against the status quo, but in reality it enables the industry to meet in the middle. MADE works in congress with IMG (the company behind Mercedes Benz Fashion Week) and with CFDA (the trade group responsible for administering NYFW's hectic show schedule) to organize MADE’s shows make sure that all of their designers ultimately get a fair shot with the right crowd.
Backstage at Parson's spring/summer 2015 showcase. Photo by Koury Angelo for Milk Made
The media room at MADE Fashion Week is maybe 30 feet from the entrance to the main runway space, which hosts shows ranging from the measured subtlety of Cushnie et Ochs to the ‘first girl to lose her virginity’ flavor of Jeremy Scott. Inside the media room you’ll find scores of journalists, photographers, and videographers all given unfettered access in way that leaves the room humming, never lacking the proper resources to proliferate a shared vision.
“It’s about accessibility and transparency. It’s not only exclusive, it’s wildly inclusive” Barnett tells me on the roof of Milk Studios. The absolutely packed Jeremy Scott show had just let and there were still PAs everywhere, moving in huge sets made of old school TVs. They were partnering with a Maybelline to highlight eight new up-and-coming video directors, which is all part of the plan. “It’s an intersection of fashion, art, music, and tech, when all is said and done.”
Photo by Drew Levin
After, we headed to the Standard Hotel (whose third-floor ballroom is playing host to other MADE designers) to convene with Jenné and the rest of team. Even though they're wiped out from an intense week, they're still convivial. I’ve been making jokes about drowning myself in a toilet since Saturday, but it’s all smiles here. When I asked about future plans, Jenné smiled, but revealed little: “The future is all about collaborative groups. My greatest fear in life is to be stale.”
Later that night, I saw Barnett and Jenné overseeing production for MADE's final show, The Blonds. Every season, The Blonds bring their chaotic, insanely shiny, and glamorous vision (equal parts grown club kid and supreme Vegas showgirl) to life—a celebration that's since become tradition. Even at 9 PM on fashion week's final night, their team was still buzzing around, quietly making sure everything went off seamlessly without a hitch.
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