By Arwa Lodhi
Picture the highly structured, historically referenced silhouettes of John Galliano at Dior – made with recycled Royal Mail sacks. Imagine the wildly creative, politically outspoken collections of Alexander McQueen – but created from yurt window cut offs and naturally dyed British wool. Add a dash of fierce feminism and an injection of youthful attitude, and you’ve got an idea of what Maddie Williams’ fashion is like.
This young upstart’s graduate collection stunned all who saw it. It portrays six loomingly present goddes-type figures who are meant to represent the very antithesis of the Elitist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy and strike fear into the hearts of corporate CEOs. Unrestrained by advertising dollars or sponsorships, they celebrate their femininity in ways rarely seen before.
As a participant in London Fashion Scout’s ‘One to Watch’ show, Maddie really blew the audience away, instantly catapulting her brand into the view of top fashion editors and buyers.
Here, in this exclusive interview, we ask her about her inspiration behind the collection that launched a new star of British sustainable fashion.
How did you become interested in eco-fashion?
I think coming from my generation, we have grown up constantly informed about global warming and climate change and it’s something that is present in a lot of young people’s minds and one of the biggest issues that will confront us for the rest of our lives. The drastic change to our environment that is already happening and will continue to happen is something that scares and upsets me, so if there are any ways I can help slow those changes through my work, I’ll try.
What are some of the eco-materials you use?
For my past collection I mainly used re-claimed materials and focused on re-purposing and upcycling. For example I used old Royal Mail sacks and builder’s rubble sacks, deconstructed them and re-wove them into new textiles and textures. I also have a love of natural fibres, especially linen and wool, so I sourced British fleece from a rare-breed sheep farm in Rugby, then hand washed it and plant-dyed it to use within my collection as well.
What has been a pivotal moment in your career so far?
I think it was taking part in the Fashion Scout ‘One’s to Watch’ show. I had never anticipated showing at London Fashion Week – at least not right now, maybe in a few years! Being selected was a shock, but also gave me a new sense of confidence and opened me up to the idea of starting my own brand.
What were your key references for that LFW show?
The concept of the collection was imagining a future after the fall of society as we know it, but a more hopeful future rather than an apocalyptic vision. Capitalism and patriarchy and many harmful social structures would have disappeared and the women – who are meant to be almost goddess like – dress themselves out of the waste left behind by the previous society and dress to celebrate their bodies, exaggerating typically feminine attributes to make them feel powerful.
I had many references for this collection, the silhouettes were informed by ancient fertility figures; I looked at paganism, contemporary matriarchal societies, ancient Greece, 18th century dress, Pussy Riot…. that’s just a few.
Who inspires your work, either creatively or as a personality?
I am inspired by activists. I love Vandana Shiva, Naomi Klein and Lucy Siegle for example; their words fed into the concepts and ideas I had for this collection. I also created badges that were pinned onto the models with quotes from some of their books.
Who is the Maddie Williams customer?
I think the Maddie Williams customer is likely to be someone brave and creative – someone who uses their clothes to express their creativity. The customer is someone who cares about the story and the process of how their clothing has been made.
Your clothes on the runway aren’t really what you’d see women wearing on the street. How do you think those styles could translate to everyday wear?
I am considering starting to develop some of the pieces into a more ready to wear styles and producing them on a small scale. I think they key thing would be not losing the textiles, and working out practical ways of applying the textiles to garments. The way I work is highly craft-and-labour-intensive (and ethically made by well paid staff – Ed.) – so customers would need to respect or even be drawn to that – and be willing to pay a price that fairly reflects the time and effort that has gone in to the garments.
You put a fang motif over the crotches of some designs to symbolise power in some of your styles. In which other ways would you say your clothing is feminist?
The cut of the clothing was meant to celebrate the female body, highlighting typically feminine attributes and exaggerating them. Before when women dressed to look powerful they would broaden their shoulders to appear more masculine, I wanted to do the opposite, most of my clothes have high necks and low sleeves to give the impression of sloped or narrow shoulders. I wanted to exaggerate the feminine to make the women feel powerful.
Apparently, you love museums and look to them for inspiration. If you could go back in time to any era, which would it be and why?
This is a really hard question! I think I’d be interested in going way back to before most patriarchal religions developed, and experience what it was like when women were revered for their fertility and ability to bring life into the world.