Madamette Founder, Quanasia Graham
Step into the world of fashion and empowerment as we sit down with Quanasia Graham, the founder, and designer behind the innovative brand Madamette. With a background in fashion styling and retail leadership in the lingerie industry, Quanasia brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her creations. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the inspirations behind Madamette, the importance of celebrating and promoting women, and the role of diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry.
How did your background in fashion styling and retail leadership in the lingerie industry influence the creation of Madamette?
I have spent 17 years learning about lingerie products and listening to the wants and needs of customers/clients. Ultimately, the women I have assisted had one thing in common: the pursuit of confidence. We all want to feel and look good in what we wear. Lingerie has been a powerful tool I’ve used when styling women, helping them build confidence with their bodies. Madamette is all about confidence and inspiring women to have fun with their wardrobe. Although I started my collection with the Play boots, the inspiration comes from lingerie, aiming to be playful and powerful.
Can you tell us about the process of launching Madamette and how you chose to focus on celebrating and promoting women?
I started the Madamette brand in 2020 and launched our e-commerce site, selling curated vintage pieces from my archive and some wholesale lingerie items. This gave me time to work on my own designs, which I launched in February 2022. When creating Madamette, I reflected on my experience, culture, and upbringing. The women in my family and community have always been a great inspiration to me. I see how hardworking, soft, and resilient they are, going out of their way to show up for the ones they love and the things they care about. This is what I witnessed as a little girl and what I continue to see them do to this very day. It is who I am and where I come from. Throughout my career in styling and retail leadership, I have dedicated myself to helping women feel and look their best. It’s not just a trend for me; it is a commitment and a life mission.
How do you balance the playful and powerful attributes in your designs, and what is your design philosophy when it comes to creating a Madamette piece?
Madamette’s design philosophy is always to be playful, powerful, and functional.
You mention being inspired by various eras and styles. Can you tell us more about how you incorporate those inspirations into your collections?
Yes, I have been obsessed with the Roaring 20s, 60s glam, and 70s disco eras since I was a young girl watching old films. I loved playing dress up and wearing my mother’s vintage furs and purses around our home. I would run around in my aunt’s stilettos, and even now, I still rummage through my grandmother’s closets. Born in the 80s and gaining my style freedom in the 90s, my New Yorker upbringing with strong southern roots influences my collections, showcasing style influences from Harlem, Upstate New York, Charleston, and New Orleans. My grandma Rita and her sisters were my first style icons, and the way they wore color, suits, dresses, and coats should be criminal! My paternal grandma Willie was also very stylish, and I have heirlooms given to me by both of my grandmothers. All of this is in the DNA of Madamette.
How do you ensure that Madamette is inclusive and accessible to a diverse range of customers?
While I launched the collection with myself as the muse, in future campaigns, you’ll see a diverse group of people of different body sizes, cultures, races, ages, etc. We currently offer sizes up to 2XL and are working on expanding to 4XL by 2024. I am collaborating with size consultants and fit models to ensure we get it right.
Can you tell us about the role that Black in Fashion Council played in the launch of Madamette, and how you see the organization promoting diversity and inclusivity in the fashion industry?
Madamette was launched in February 2022, but the Black in Fashion Council (BIFC) helped bring more awareness to the brand during the NYFW February 2023 season. It was a full-circle moment for me. I used to attend NYFW as a freelance writer, contributing editor, and stylist. Years later, I was there as a designer, thanks to BIFC. I had the opportunity to meet many industry professionals whom I admire, and they provided great feedback about the collection. I am extremely thankful for BIFC’s commitment and hard work in promoting Black designers and providing a platform for us to showcase our talents in an industry that lacks diversity and inclusivity. Their partnership with NYFW The Shows, IMG, and Shopify is significant. Many brands that have collaborated with BIFC are doing amazing things because of the opportunities their platform offers.
What has been your biggest challenge in creating and launching Madamette, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been the capital as I am self-funded. However, I am working smartly on creating my collections and not rushing the process.
How do you see Madamette evolving in the next few years, and what goals do you have for the brand?
Madamette will be launching new products this year, and we hope to expand to e-tail and retail stores very soon. I don’t want to reveal too much just yet!
Can you tell us about a particularly memorable styling assignment you’ve worked on, and how that experience influenced your approach to fashion?
One of my favorite and most memorable styling assignments was with Marcia Smith for the Academy Awards Ceremony 2022. She is the President and Co-founder of Firelight Media, which created the Attica Documentary that was nominated for an Oscar. She was also the executive producer for the film. During the process, I had the opportunity to observe Marcia as a businesswoman, leader, mother, and wife. She is a trailblazer and a pillar in her community, and I wanted to ensure her wardrobe spoke to the many powers she embodies.
How do you stay current with the latest fashion trends and incorporate them into your designs while still maintaining a unique Madamette aesthetic?
Classic styles are always key; however, I am observant and pay attention to what is currently trending. I have always been good at putting my own spin on things, and I keep that in mind when designing for Madamette.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers, particularly those from underrepresented communities?
Be authentic! Do your research and use what you have to create. Be open and prepared to face criticism, but don’t let it stop you. Build a community of other creatives who align with your purpose and vision. Collaborate and grow together; ultimately, you will thrive together.
Finally, can you tell us about a project or collaboration you have coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
There is something really exciting on the way! You’ll have to wait and see! 🙂
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Creatives who promote cultural + social diversity with the focus of identity