One of the most unique and rewarding elements of opening up your blog to a wide array of vintage related sponsors is that you never know just what kind of exciting, wonderful company is going to contact you next.
Recently I received a Facebook private massage that lead to a terrific back and forth with an ambitious, talented, thoroughly lovely lady named Gina who is in the midst of getting her brand new vintage inspired loungewear line, Maddy James, off the ground. In order to help facilitate and speed up this process, at the beginning of April she launched a Kickstarter Champaign to help her raise $15,000 US to go towards the many costs involved with the production of her timelessly beautiful clothing.
While there is plenty of vintage inspired and reproduction clothing on the market already, when you stop and think about it, there are very few brands that intentionally specialize in comfortable, old school style loungewear that is well made, easy to launder, created from beautiful materials, made in the USA, and intended to be worn time and time again, not just on special occasions or in the bedroom, as more racy lingerie often is.
When Gina told me about Maddy James, the first words that flashed around my mind like twinkling neon lights were, honest to goodness, "That's a brilliant idea!", followed by "There is a major need for this is the vintage fashion world!".
While you may see me sporting my vintage, repro and vintage appropriate threads on camera, when the lens is capped and I'm back home, more often than not, because of my health (and, let's face it, a love of comfort, too, that many of us share), unless we have people over or other big plans that day, a good chunk of the time, I'll be sporting pajamas, a nightgown, or loungewear. Some of these items are vintage, others are modern, but few come even close to being as a stunning as Maddy James’ offerings.
One certainly doesn't need to be chronically ill though by any stretch of the imagination to appreciate and frequently turn to loungewear though of course. It has been a part of fashion history for many decades now, rising in popularity in particular from the Victorian era onward, with the years of the mid-twentieth century arguably being the most glamorous and beguiling stretch for this important sector of one's wardrobe.
Who amongst us hasn't gone pajama or loungewear shopping, online or off, over the years and failed to find anything that truly captured our vintage loving hearts and the general aesthetic of our wardrobe? Yes, there are genuine vintage options to be had, but they're not always tough as nails, able to be thrown in the washing machine, and available in your size (or price range) anytime you want. All of these points, and many more, are ones that Maddy James's classic, elegant and sweepingly pretty offerings will provide customers with once the brand is fully operational.
In order to make that happen, Maddy James needs your support. Any donation of $1.00 or greater can be pledged on Kickstarter towards this end of raising $15,000, with pledges of $5.00 or more each receiving various thank you gifts, depending on how much is donated. With all pledges of $55.00 or more receiving an actual Maddy James garment. It’s important to keep in mind that on Kickstarter, campaigns only receive the total amount pledged toward them if they meet or exceed the goal they’ve set. If such fails to happen, Maddy James won’t receive a single cent of Kickstarter derived backing, which would be a genuine shame, as it such a deserving startup.
Sometimes there is truly no one better suited to tell you about the creations, dreams and business plans than the entrepreneur behind a company itself, so with that in mind, I recently interviewed Gina to learn more about Maddy James and why this vintage inspired loungewear line is so marvelously cool and worthy of our financial assistance.
I was over-the-moon excited when you told me about the fact that you were launching a line of vintage inspired loungewear, Gina, and still am, as I feel like you're catering to an often completely (or very nearly so) ignored segment of the repro/vintage inspired fashion world. Could you please share with me some of the things that led you to want to create and launch Maddy James?
I came up with this idea to produce vintage loungewear about three years ago when I was looking for a vintage nightgown to wear to a 1930’s weekend on Catalina Island organized by the Los Angeles Art Deco Society. I found many delicious pieces on-line, but I had a hard time finding things in my size, and what little there was in my size was so fragile I was afraid to actually wear it. I started doing an exhaustive search for reproductions, and what very little I found there was made from real silk charmeuse cut on the bias; gorgeous but over $400 dollars. Ouch!
Was there one big "ah-ha!" incident or encounter that made you feel like this was something you knew you were going to do for real (aka, not merely thinking about doing it)?
In addition to needing something for this event, I was pretty tired of sleeping in sweatpants and t-shirts, but I really couldn't find anything that wasn't either "sloppy" or super sexy. I realized that there was definitely a hole in the market. I started bouncing the idea around to friends and family and got a lot of positive response. I wasn't the only one that wanted something a little more glamorous to sleep in.
Why do you think that many vintage reproduction companies have not yet addressed the realm of loungewear, especially considering how many of - even those who wear vintage fashions all the time - slip into it once we're in the comforts of our own home at the end of the day (and on the weekends, etc)?
I really don't know. I have had many of my girlfriends (even the ones who are not necessarily into vintage) all complain about nothing that makes them feel pretty but not necessarily sexy or trashy. And, who has watched TCM and not lusted over all of those beautiful nightgowns and bed jackets?
Can you tell us about the types of products Maddy James is planning to carry?
The first collection is really fixated on the 1930's and 1940's, but we plan on expanding into all of the decades from the 1920's to the 1970's. For fall we are hoping to come out with 14 pieces that include a furry bed jacket and some swanky 1920's pajamas.
Will you be expanding on that selection as time goes on or do you plan to stick with the same general styles?
We have tons of great ideas for the future. I've been collecting patterns and vintage sleepwear for over a decade, not to mention countless sketches from pieces I've seen in the movies. That is the beauty of what our grandmother's wore; so much variety.
Aside from the (wonderful!) fact that you're line is devoted to vintage style loungewear, are there any points that you feel really help set Maddy James apart from fellow vintage repro/inspired clothing brands?
Yes, there are a couple of things. The first being that all of the fabrics I am working with are very practical (something past generations didn't have). So although everything mimics the look and feel of vintage garments it is all very practical and machine washable. I want to create things that although pretty, are practical enough to wear every night.
I'm also proud of the fact that I am producing these garments locally, with factories here in Chicago (my home town).
What made you opt to go the exciting Kickstarter route as a means of helping get your business off the ground?
I thought it was a great way to not only help with the funding to get the first collection produced, but also a great way to promote and do a little market research as to which styles would be popular.
How are you finding the Kickstarter experience so far?
It's really nerve wracking, and my guy and I are checking the computer every 5 minutes to see if there are any new donors. But it is also a lot of fun, kind of like a contest. Can we raise enough money in 30 days? I feel like I'm on a game show!
Your pieces are dripping with timeless elegance yet also look intensely comfortable. Was it hard to find the right combination of form and function, comfort and style (not, of course, that the two have to be mutually exclusive by any means) when putting together these styles?
No, not really. That is one of the things that I have always loved about vintage (which I have been wearing so long, that I think I am actually now considered vintage). And, with vintage loungewear it really has both. The ladies of the past really knew how to go to bed.
What were some of your inspirations during the design process?
My extensive pattern collection and the tons of hours I spend watching old movies and tv. Not to mention the tons and tons of old books and magazines I have. It was really fun to pore through everything and take ideas from all the luscious things I found.
Did you have custom fabrics printed for some or all of your current products?
Not at the moment. Sourcing fabric has been one of the biggest obstacles. I am looking at companies that will do fabric designs, so that is something I really would like to try in the future. I've got antique garments that have such lovely patterns, I'd love to be able to reproduce some of those.
Though your designs clearly channel the past, which is awesome, they also strike me as being wonderfully wearable for ladies who are more into modern clothing, especially those who appreciate classic tailoring and beautiful fabrics. Was this an intentional move on Maddy James' part?
Yes, this was an intentional move. Although I know there is a large and hungry vintage loving crowd out there, I really thought that this idea had an audience that was more than just those lovely ladies. Everyone I talk to about this has always commented about how they had a hard time finding things that were sultry but not trampy.
Speaking of Maddy James, can you tell us more about how the company's name came to be?
It's actually my name. Well, sort of. Maddy is my maiden name, and James is my dad's name. My dad was one of my first and biggest supporters. He was the one that gave me the confidence to take this on. And he's been a big help through the whole process.
And what about your spunky, adorable tomato girl mascot?
The mascot represents my grandmother, and was drawn by my daughter Kate, who is in art school. My grandmother was always a great lover of fashion, and always had the prettiest nightgowns. My grandfather use to always tell me that she was the "best looking tomato in town". She died around the time I was thinking about doing this, and left me a small inheritance, which was my seed money. I think of her every time I look at it.
Right now your size range spans from XS to XL (with the latter being a modern US size 14-16), do you have plans to create larger sizes than that for the plus size vintage loving market (who were sizes larger than XL, I mean)?
We do. One of the lovely ladies I met in fashion school, April Pruitt-Summers, has been working on a collection especially for the more voluptuous of us. We plan on introducing some of her pieces in the fall.
Do you foresee Maddy James as carrying strictly women's pieces or would you perhaps like to branch out and expand into men's and/or children's vintage inspired loungewear, too?
We do hope to add a few men's items during different times of the year. I have sketches for a men's smoking jacket that we hope to release for Christmas. Children’s sleepwear is a different ball game, as everything has to be made from special flame retardant fabrics, so at the moment we are not really exploring that.
I know it's always very tough for a designer to pick as much, but do you have one or two particular favourites from amongst your first collection of pieces?
I love the Katharine jumpsuit. It is my favorite. It is based on a piece I have in my collection from the 1930's. I actually designed it for one of my classes, so not only is it sexy and comfy, but one of the first things I created.
Which Maddy James offering would you say is most practical for a young mom with kids under foot?
The Margo is made from a knit fabric. So it is not only pretty, but practical. Plus it has a matching bed jacket. The Aubry pajamas are also another piece that is pretty practical for everyday.
How about for the most alluring romantic for the vintage loving gal who is looking to turn her partner's head when she enters the room?
That would have to be the Chantal. It is based on some old patterns I have, and I actually had a particular bride in mind when I was working on it.
Are Maddy James garments machine washable? Can any of them be dried in the dryer?
They are machine washable, and although I have put a lot of the fabric through the dryer to see how it would hold up and it all did well. I would recommend hang drying in order for it to keep its beauty longer.
What has been your favourite part of this whole wonderful concept to design to reality experience so far?
Really all of it. I've actually taken my hobby (historical sewing) and turned it into a real labor of love and hopefully a profitable business as well.
Where do you see Maddy James in five years time?
I haven't really thought about it. I've been just focusing on getting it finished and out there. But certainly I hope in five years I've convinced all women, vintage loving or not, that yoga pants are not something a girl should dream in.
And last, but certainly not least, why should people contribute to your fantastic Kickstarter campaign and help get Maddy James on the vintage inspired fashion market even sooner?
I would hope they would donate because they love the pieces. But also I would hope they would donate because they think it's important to encourage new woman-owned businesses.
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I look at Maddy James' deeply lovely offerings and I'm struck by the fact that I see pieces in their inaugural collection that not only suit my own fashion tastes, but which I can picture scores of my vintage loving friends wearing, as well as which I know plenty of the non-vintage sporting ladies in my life, from my sister to my mother, and even both of my grandmothers, would happily slip into when they want to relax and feel comfortable at home in as well. These items are not only redolent of the past, they're an important part of the present which you can help make possible by donating to the Maddy James Kickstarter campaign.
It's not every day that a new vintage inspired clothing line comes along, let one devoted solely to gorgeous loungewear, and it's world less common still that we, the very vintage community who wears and adores yesteryear styles with all our heart and soul, get a chance to help one not only get off the ground but soar and potentially enrich many of our wardrobes with its awesome offerings in the process.
Let's pitch in, my dears, with any amount that you'd like to contribute, and collectively as a vintage community, help come Maddy James come to be right before our very eyes.