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Interview with Fashion Alumna: Madison Perez

Madison Perez alongside her garment presented at Montclair State University

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Montclair State University alumna, Madison Perez. Madison graduated spring 2022 with a degree in Fashion Studies and is currently working in tech design and production. I interviewed her about the piece she created in an exhibition held by Montclair State University in Spring 2022.

What was the inspiration behind your garment?

The inspiration behind my garment for the fashion exhibition was my concern with what I wanted to leave behind as a senior. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to explore many new styles and options as a grow as a designer but I'll never be this version of myself at this point in time ever again, so I wanted my last design as a student to be very authentic and personal, possibly not for the masses.

Another source of inspiration was that I was in the process of designing a collection inspired by queens and women in power throughout history; including Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I. Simultaneously, Vogue had just released the details of the highly anticipated MET Gala that was finally to return after the hiatus of the pandemic. Naturally, when you can't attend the fashion world’s biggest event of the year, you design a dress for it! So, I drew up a dress that has the extravagant fit for the iconic stairs of the Met. I knew I wanted to create a dress that could be runway, royalty, or red carpet ready. The dress can be worn as a set as shown, the detachable skirt can be worn as a cape, or the pink dress beneath can be worn simply as is.

Visit Vogue’s website here to learn more about the MET Gala.

What was your brainstorming process?

My brainstorming process began with me knowing I wanted my garment to be multi-dimensional and adaptive. Since I was very inspired by the Met Gala, I went to Vogue archives and realized, how do people even sit in these dresses and ensembles? Then I came across the iconic Lady Gaga gala look by Brandon Maxwell. First the cape came off and revealed a beautiful dress, and under that was a mini dress and then down to the stockings, and that’s the way to do it! Maxwell fused red-carpet, theatrics, and practically a whole collection all on a flight of stairs. This began the brainstorming process of knowing I wanted my garment to have multiple looks before I even knew what the look was going to be, and that is how I ended up with my detachable skirt/cape and my 3-in-1 look.

For more on Brandon Maxwell visit Harper’s Bazaar article on the designer.

Fashion illustration by Madison Perez of garment

How long did this process take?

The entire process took me a total of two months to do, but if I’m being honest, most of the work was done in the final two weeks. Most of my process was “invisible work” and mostly figuring out how I was going to execute the ideas that I had in my head that I had never even done or tried before. A lot of my process was painstaking trial and error and samples. Nonetheless, the process was rewarding and allowed me to able to work so fluently the last 2 weeks before the garment was due to be exhibited.

What materials did you use? Are any of the materials sustainable?

The materials I used for the pink dress included lamé and structured in-boning all throughout the inside to keep that corseted look as well as the straight and tube-like bottom of the skirt. The orange detachable skirt can become a cape, and is made of duchess satin with tulle netting and interfacing beneath for structure and volume.

The orange duchess satin that I used for the skirt actually is sustainable, as it is deadstock fabric. Deadstock fabric is sustainable and a preferred option for designers as it is stock that fabric stores sell as remnants and scraps of fabric, or in extreme bulk from surplus manufacturing. The only issues with these kinds of fabrics is that there may be holes or minor damage and comes with its own risks, but it is cost-efficient and a way to preserve new rolls of fabrics and rather use pre-existing fabrics. Sometimes I even prefer deadstock fabrics because you can find uncommon and unique fabrics.

Featured garment by Madison Perez

What does this piece mean to you?

This piece means a lot to me because it was my senior project, which is always a big deal and it’s the first big piece I did on my own and I even self-taught myself a lot of new techniques and skills that I needed to know for these ideas I knew I wanted to come into fruition. It was a project that really pushed me as a designer, a student, and as a person.

When I originally showed my professor the design ideas I had, she had suggested that I try something simpler because she did not think it was realistic with the time-frame given, but I managed to push and get it done. I grew to know my abilities and what I am capable of even if I felt as times like maybe I was putting too much on my plate, but discomfort and uncertainty is what gave me the results I got, including the 2nd place award of my section, and I am extremely proud of that.

How was the experience of presenting your work to a large audience?

The experience of presenting my work to a large audience was more heart-warming than nerve-wracking. It felt good to be able to speak on my work and my creative process and enjoy recognition by respected professors and peers for my professional and artistic growth. Late night sewing during lonely hours turned into all these people’s attention on my creation, and it felt motivating.

Featured garment presented in exhibition at Montclair State University

What made you want to pursue a career in fashion?

My inspiration to becoming a designer in the fashion industry is honestly where I started. As a kid, it is common to want to be a million things before you know what your real path in life is, and fortunately for me, I’ve spent my whole life knowing where I belong. Fashion design has always been my tunnel vision and I am blessed with a family that has always made me feel like it was a reach away. I have a support system that I crave to make proud, but also a smaller and younger version of myself. I don’t think I’ll ever let go of the dreams I’ve had for myself as a little girl and I see that as my purest source of inspiration.

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