Far from New York, where she was introduced to the world of high fashion, Madalyn Manzeck is putting her design talent to work closer to her Town of Belgium home
Madalyn Manzeck was greeted each day at work by a door man welcoming her to the Empire State Building.
The Town of Belgium resident’s 10-block commute from Midtown East could consist of walking, taking the subway or a cab.
“This is not real life. This is crazy,” Manzeck said.
Serving as a fashion research and development intern in summer 2015 for Global Brands Group in Manhattan allowed her to establish one-on-one relationship with textile companies in China.
It also told Manzeck that her dream of working in the corporate world of fashion wasn’t her cup of tea.
“I think I always needed to be an entrepreneur,” she said.
One year after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in textile and apparel design, that’s exactly what Manzeck is doing. Two months ago, she got her own shop in Port Washington, a room on the second floor of a the Port Harbor Center on Main Street.
Her storefront, however, is social media. Manzeck launched a blog and landed her first commission after a future bride found her on Instagram. Manzeck made a floor-length white robe and was excited to play a role in a woman’s special day.
“It was so awesome to be part of people’s lives that way,” she said.
Social media or not, it’s nice to have an actual shop. Manzeck said she had been using “the other side of my bedroom” for designing with clients trying on pieces in her bathroom.
Manzeck said she focuses her pieces on combining beauty with comfort, a rarity in the world of fashion. Usually, Manzeck said the choice is between an evening gown with tape and pins that makes it hard to breathe, or comfy leggings lacking in style.
Manzeck designs lingerie, coats, dresses and dance costumes, and does alterations — not her favorite but it comes with the job, she said.
Growing up, Manzeck planned on a career using a stethoscope rather than Micron pens for sketching designs. She dreamed of attending Harvard and becoming a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
When she got her first fashion magazine when she was 12, Manzeck thought fashion was nothing more than a hobby. But she loved turning the glossy pages and seeing the gorgeous photos.
“I think I like the fantasy world of it,” she said. “It was like a fairy tale.”
Then she took sewing lessons and realized her fantasy could become a career. She was accepted into Parsons School of Design in New York, but tuition was too high to attend.
At UW-Madison, Manzeck earned a YMA Fashion Scholarship that allowed her to attend a reception at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. There, she met famous designers Isabel and Ruben Toledo, a husband-and-wife team. Isabel is a designer and Ruben an illustrator.
It was what Manzeck called a “pinch-me” moment.
As she starts to carve out her own piece in the fashion design world pie, Manzeck has had other such moments. When she sees a model wearing one of her garments, she is amazed.
“It was in my head and now it’s real and beautiful,” she said. “It’s fun to see an idea merge from a concept and then seeing it on a person.”
From idea to garment can be a “messy process,” Manzeck said, since fabric doesn’t always lay as planned.
Her first piece remains her favorite, a black evening gown that turned into a robe during a critique. Manzeck calls it the Valentina.
Manzeck’s daily job tasks include heading to Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts for material, meeting with clients for fittings, drawing and sewing. She can sew for hours on end.
Manzeck said she will meet clients at their homes for fittings or they can come to her shop. Some she never meets; they email her their measurements and Manzeck has a knack for knowing how to fabric will fit.
Work ranges from designing Miss Wisconsin’s 2016 parade look for the Miss America competition to 15 costumes for a dance company in Manitowoc, after which Manzeck declared she was “done with rhinestone” for a while.
Manzeck had her go-to models in Madison, and now is finding others. Sometimes, she’ll serve as her own model.
“Not everyone is a size 2 and 6 feet tall,” she said. “Anyone and everyone can wear these designs and make them look beautiful.”
Manzeck will be showing some of her pieces at the Milwaukee Athletic Club during Milwaukee Fashion Week in September.
Some of Manzeck’s pieces will be featured in a new magazine called Unadorned, which comes out Friday.
Inspiration strikes Manzeck at any time — while lying in bed or in the shower. She sometimes grabs a screenshot of something that catches her eye.
“It’s like a creative switch. You can’t turn it off,” she said.
As with any creative field, Manzeck can get design block. Stepping away from a project and going for a run or seeing a movie helps re-energize, she said.
Fashion moves quickly, so staying ahead is difficult, she said. Designers with shows in September and February are already working on both events.
“You’ll wake up and someone will be doing something bigger and better,” she said.
Manzeck would someday like to establish her own small design team but not a large public company. For now, she is living her dream.
For more information: http://madalynjoydesigns.com