GIRLS TO THE FRONT!
IN CONVERSATION WITH ERIN MAGEE
Erin Magee is a rare voice in the world of streetwear. She’s been at the helm of Supreme’s production and development in a career with the brand that spans over a decade. Since 2007, she’s also lead her own feminist label MadeMe, a brand that champions a by girls, for girls style.
Now, Converse and MadeMe have teamed up for a capsule collection that blends the label’s inimitable cool-girl attitude with the iconic One Star for a rave-inspired, platform take on the legendary shoe – based on a silhouette Converse produced in the '90s – alongside a range of athletic springtime staples. Ahead of the launch, we checked in to the Converse One Star Hotel and met the esteemed designer in the bright yellow MadeMe suite she designed to talk Madonna, downtown NYC, and Girls to the Front.
Erin Magee in the suite she decorated to imitate her childhood bedroom.
Old video footage of the New York Club Kids from the '90s.
First of all, thanks for inviting us to your suite to talk. Nobody’s really doing a New York label like MadeMe, are they?
Yeah, it's meant to feel very New York! That's why it's cool for me to come here because I don't know if a lot of these young girls know exactly what it is, but if you're in New York and you're a girl, I think you know what it is, you know!
You’ve worked at Supreme for over a decade. It seems like the streetwear world is a bit of a boys club in some respects; is your brand a bit of a reaction to that?
I guess that’s kinda how it started, you know. I work at Supreme so it’s always men’s stuff, which I don’t mind talking about – like that’s what I do for a living – and it’s the best brand to do that with for a living, so I appreciate that a lot. But it was a little bit of a reaction to that, like “well ok, cool, but girls like cool stuff too...” [laughs].
MadeMe has firm downtown New York roots, particularly X-girl and early ‘90s subcultures. What would you say it was about all of this that really inspired you?
I grew up in Toronto, and X-girl was a store. It wasn’t a magazine yet, it wasn’t a TV channel, it was a cool store on Lafayette Street and they had the coolest stuff. It was a little boutique and I would save up all my money, go in there and buy all the X-girl stuff I could afford, then I’d wear it out to a rave. I’d learn all about it, and you had to learn things through magazines, it wasn’t on the internet. You’d read the little articles on Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon, and I really looked up to her, so it was really cool that I could buy her clothes. That was really important to me as a girl, so now I hope I can do that for this generation.
That's interesting because you hear magazines such as i-D, The Face & Dazed, to name but a few, being the major sources of inspiration for designers and people running labels who came of an age in a time before the internet was prevalent.
Yeah, well I remember the only way I could get information was if I went to a record store, or whenever I went to a bookstore to buy a magazine. I remember I would drive my little car over and buy up a bunch of stuff then just go home and devour it because I just wanted information. Everything would always happen in New York City. Kim Gordon lived across the road from X-girl, I would read all these things and I would really remember them and I thought, “I’m going to leave [Toronto], get me out of here!” and I did! I ended up going to New York when I was 19.
Do you feel there was a distinct sense of community within these kinds of stores? That’s how record culture worked – you’d have these scenes naturally evolving from people just hanging out in the same place. Was it the same with fashion?
Oh totally, I don’t know how these kids do it today because they just live on their phones. I would go to the record store, bookstore, or clothing store and like, I’d see a cute girl or someone that I wanted to be friends with and say “Hi!” And that night you’d see them at the party, and then you’d be doing drugs so you’d probably go and say hi to them! [laughs]
Converse x MadeMe collaboration platform corduroy One Star sneakers.
Are there any musicians you feel are associated with your brand now, in the way Kim Gordon was to X-girl?
So I always work with Princess Nokia. To me, every time I have to shoot something, I ask myself who I’m shooting and it always goes back to her. The reason it goes back to her is that she reminds me a lot of how MadeMe exists in a land of male streetwear brands. I think about Destiny [Frasqueri (Princess Nokia)] and she’s a rapper amongst all these dudes, these dude rappers, and she’s a queer rapper, a feminist rapper. And that’s the same way I feel about MadeMe, I’m in the streetwear zone with all these dudes, but it’s a queer brand! It’s a feminist brand! I always feel we’re both very New York, so it always goes back to Destiny. And that’s why I brought her here to perform at the One Star Hotel.
She’s a model for young women today you could argue – she opens up concerts saying “this is a safe space, this is for the girls, any guys here let the girls come to the front!”
Well you know where she got that from! That’s another reason I like Destiny; she does her homework. Kathleen Hanna [Bikini Kill] invented that, the whole girls to the front thing, and Destiny’s applying that to today’s young women that don’t know about that kind of stuff. I feel that’s what MadeMe tries to do too, you know. Kim Gordon’s was the first women’s streetwear brand ever, so it’s good that these girls can try and learn about these things again. You know, it’s funny she did that because she’s channelling Kathleen Hanna!
Why do you think New York facilitates that kind of attitude?
I mean, it’s hard as fuck to live in New York, and if you’re that kind of scrapper you can make it work. If you’ve got that kind of attitude then yeah, it’s like girls to the front, one hundred percent! You have to be like that in New York, you’re going to get run over if you’re not like that.
We saw that you had shot Coco Gordon Moore as well, and Lourdes, Madonna’s daughter, too…
Yeah! And Kim came to the shoot! These are women I grew up looking up to. If you’re a woman and you don’t understand the contribution Madonna has made for you, then you have a problem. So, of course, I’m going to shoot Lola [Lourdes], she’s a downtown New York City kid too, she’s in the club, she’s in all the gay clubs, she’s in the street, and if you’re a downtown kid you know Lola. She’s around. And she doesn’t do photographs for a lot of people. Versace, Wang, all these people are trying to get Lola to shoot their campaign and she says no because she wants to do something that she connects with. So yeah, that’s why I work with those guys – because I love their moms!
Finally, we read the quote from you that said: “I want the clothes to be like what Chloë [Sevigny] was wearing in the rave in ’93.” What is it about her specifically that seems to encapsulate that whole thing?
So, I got to know her over the past few years which was really crazy for me, to get to know Chloë Sevigny as a friend! When I was a kid I remember putting on Kids in my bedroom as a teenager and thinking she was just so cool. She’s very authentic, she worked in all those stores when she was a kid, she worked at Liquid Sky, and she did the X-girl lookbooks. She just is that girl, and I don’t know if there’s going to be anyone like that again. When I think about it, the only person that comes close is Petra Collins.
MadeMe x Converse poster inspired by old New York rave posters.
The suite was decorated all yellow as a nod to Erin's childhood growing up in Toronto.