After winning a Portland fashion design competition in October, German Madrigal is showing his futuristic line at New York Fashion Week this Tuesday.
The 27-year-old from Vancouver will show the line as part of The Art Institutes Fall 2016 Runway Show, and will be one of 13 Art Institutes students or grads sending their designs down the runway.
While Madrigal has shown at the prestigious New York Fashion Show once before, this will be his first time without a co-designer, and the exposure could give him a big boost in the fashion world.
Madrigal's trip to New York Fashion Week comes on the heels of his win at FashioNXT, a Portland fashion show and competition. He wooed the judges with his stark gender-neutral designs, and he'll build on this line for his New York show.
We got a chance to chat with Madrigal before he heads to Manhattan, and he told us where he got his inspiration for the line, and gave us a few hints about his next collection. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, and how did you get into fashion?
See the show
German Madrigal, along with 12 other designers from Art Institutes throughout the country, will be showing their lines at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Skylight at Moynihan Station, located at 360 West 33rd Streetin Manhattan.
A: Nothing out of the norm. My family migrated from Mexico. We moved to Vancouver and have lived here ever since.
I always remember gravitating toward the arts, anything I could get my hands on. My mom always had to clean up the piles of products I had everywhere, so she could vouch for this. I would love dressing up my sister's Barbies. You could see the gleam in my eye every time my sister got a new Barbie.
Then, in high school – they make you do all those career assessments tests – and they would always tell me to go into the arts or fashion design. Then I took the ASVAB, that super accurate career test, and fashion design was my number one career.
That kind of just gave me a spark. When I got my drivers license, I called my parents. I said, "We're going to dinner, and I'm driving." They were suspicious. Next thing you know I end up kidnapping my parents and sending them to an Art Institute [of Portland] orientation meeting to see if I could go. My mom said, this is not a restaurant.
I visited the campus by myself, and then I had those typical conversations about choosing a school. Except I was super dramatic. I just wanted their blessing. I was like, I will die if I don't go here, I know what I want to do in life, I don't want to work at McDonalds.
So I started in 2008 and I've been taking classes ever since. I've worked full time the whole time. At first I babysat, then I worked at a Chinese restaurant. That didn't last long. I'm a barista at Starbucks now.
Q: What was the first time you designed something you were proud of?
This is the dress Madrigal designed for his friend. Courtesy German Madrigal
A: I had never touched a sewing machine in my life, never patterned anything, never been to a fabric store. I was starting from zero.
This was the one thing that made me realize that this is really hard but really fun: I first made a hot-pink corset dress for my friend who does drag. Somehow I made it happen, I remember thinking, I've never had so much fun.
As the years passed, I focused on my aesthetic. I really like modern, edgy, slick designs. I started from the beginning, with bright colors, but now I've evolved.
Q: Will you show the same line from FashioNXT?
A: Yes, but I added additional pieces because it's my senior thesis. I've added some styles and some custom handbags that I made myself. They're not your typical handbags.
Q: The line is very futuristic and gender-neutral. Tell me about your inspiration.
The Inversion: Plus Minus sculpture, created by artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo, sits at the Eastern base of the Hawthorne Bridge. Joe Rose/The Oregonian
A: It was honestly – you know that Inversion: Plus Minus sculpture near Belmont? After I came back from New York, I would get a drink at Dig A Pony and look at that sculpture, and that was my inspiration. That and constantly looking in stores' men's departments, and then looking at the women's departments, where there's such a wide variety.
My female friends would always say they wanted something different. Something that wasn't too feminine but still classy.
That sculpture was made of so many parts but together they form this great shape. I love fall, and I love all the layers. I decided to make pieces that look like layers but you're really just wearing one. Pieces for both genders have equal attention to detail.
Q: How do you design clothes to flatter both men's and women's bodies?
A: Well, the jumpsuit is unisex, and so is the overcoat. I play with the silhouette and give room in certain areas. I give it a boxy fit. So it has a little more flow but still has that tailored look.
Q: Why do you shroud your models' faces?
A: The number one reason? Every fashion show I've ever been, I've never been given freedom to do hair and makeup how I want to do it. And at FashioNXT it was a contest. So I custom-made these overthrow masks and handpainted them with India dye. I thought it worked better – it's not about the model, it's about the clothes, about how the garment is moving. And I was trying to mask the gender a little bit.
Q: Can you tell us about your plans for your next line? Will it build on this one, aesthetically, or be a big departure?
A: I'm thinking about doing another collection with my friend Ryan Edmonds. (Madrigal worked with Edmonds for his first NYFW show). We still work together as a team.
I'm doing a third collection with him, debuting at FashioNXT this fall. I've decided to do a high-end avant-garde collection with actual dresses. I want to do something experimental – keep the tailoring in there but do something unexpected for me.
I'm looking at a combination of Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto and Celine. Still feminine but there's still something twisted about it. I want to play with making my own textiles. We're still talking about it. It's going to be interesting. This might be my last collection for a while.
Q: What's next for you?
A: I need to focus on getting a job after I graduate in June. I really want to move to New York or California. I love Portland, but there's only so much here [for fashion designers], unfortunately.
I want to keep growing and learning. I'm willing to do pretty much whatever it takes to make this career happen. You can bet that after nine years in school I'm coming out running.
-- Anna Marum