A few weeks ago, I met with Madalynne Flannigan of Madalynne Intimates at her home and studio. We had met a few times before, but I was blown away by her grit and grace. I loved learning about the intricacies of her multi-faceted business, that grew out of a sewing blog. Madaylnne does not only sell her delicate, stylish, lingerie, she invites her customers to make their own with her custom kits, or to take a class with her. Her branding is impeccable and like any great designer, she is obsessed with the details:
1. When you were young what did you want to be? Did you ever think you would end up working in the Fashion Industry?
I really didn’t know what I wanted to be. Maybe fashion designer? Maybe psychologist? I was and still enjoy writing - maybe I could be a journalist?
2. Sewing and clothing construction is a huge part of your brand, when did you first learn to sew/ make clothing?
I vividly remember rummaging through my mom’s linen closet 6 months after she passed away from breast cancer and stumbling upon her old sewing machine. I was just 18 years old and it was the Christmas break during my freshman year of college at the University of Miami. I didn’t go away my first year - I wanted to stay close to my dad. Although I was into the sciences, taking Organic Chemistry and Calculus in high school, I was always into fashion. If I was studying or balancing equations, you could usually find me at the Aventura, Boca or Galleria Mall. So, I took the machine to my local tailor and one lesson turned into a 2-year apprenticeship with a woman who once worked for Christian Dior.
3. You started writing a blog many years ago and continue to do so today. Tell us how your voice and audience have changed over time.
My voice really hasn’t changed. Twelve years ago, I started a blog as an outlet to write and connect with others about what I was and still am passionate about - ready made and DIY clothing.
4. Like many entrepreneurs you started your business while you still were working a full-time job, when did you know it was the right time to dive fulling into your business?
There was never a point where I said, "I'm ready" or, "I'm prepared, now I can start my own business!" I didn't know how things would work. I still don't. I have no idea how the future is going to unfold. Does anybody? When my mom was sick with cancer, we took it day by day. Some days were good - when chemo didn't make her nauseous. Some days were bad - when I saw her cry after she lost her hair. In my own business, there are hurdles every day, and I take it day by day. No hurdle, however, has been as big as stage IV cancer. Luckily, nobody in my business dies. I'm not curing cancer, I'm making panties!
5. One of the early forays into your business was doing a major collaboration for Urban Outfitters using 5 styles of Lingerie you created. What was that like and what did you learn from it?
I didn’t understand the magnitude of it. Looking back, I am like, “Holy shit! They don’t collaborate with just anyone!”
The entire process what seamless. They licensed 5 of my most popular me-made lingerie pieces and each one was executed perfectly. Coming from a technical design background, I didn’t learn much. The process what pretty much standard protocol for me.
6. Your brand has been very savvy with doing partnerships/collaborations (your ongoing collaboration with Simplicity Patterns, your sponsorship with PFAFF). What advice do you have for brands who are looking to create and maintain similar partnerships?
I view these collaborations as building a community. Building my tribe. I have a vision of offering ready-made and DIY lingerie. I live a simple life, or at least I try to. I only surround myself with the people and things that matter. So, I reach out to people, companies, and retailers that are going to support me and my mission. In return, I will do the same for them. The end result – we’ll both grow our communities together. Being siloed, in my opinion, is one of the worst things for a business.
7. I love how multi-faceted your business is: you can buy a Bra, you can buy the kit to make the bra, or you can take a class to learn how to make the bra. Why did you decide to go the route of offering kits and classes instead of just being a brand that sold clothing?
Because there are bills to pay. Financially, Madalynne requires several sources of revenue to keep it going.
8. You have a substantial number of followers on Instagram, what is your secret to engaging and increasing your follower base? What tools do you find the most helpful for running your own business?
Focus on connection, not numbers. Just like financial success, if you concentrate on the numbers too much, people will be able to tell. Switch it around, focus on quality, the numbers and success you want will result.
9. Where do you see Madalynne Intimates in the future? What do you have in store for the rest of 2018?
As much as I have goals and plans for Madalynne, I take it day by day. Living with a mother who battled cancer for 6 long years, I learned that tomorrow is promised to no one.
What’s in store for 2018? Living a true, authentic life that is full of passion. Two years ago, I was working an incredible corporate gig. I handle all internal communications/PR for URBN, which encompassed the brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and BHLDN. In addition, I was their resident photography, in-house graphic designer, and internal blogger. Sounds like a lot? It was. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given those opportunities, however, it wasn’t the life I wanted to live. Happiness? Who cares if you make 100k+ a year.
At the end of 2018, I won’t measure my success on how much I made. My salary won’t be tied to my self-worth. Yes, I must cover my expenses, save for the future, and pay for health insurance. However, I will ask myself these questions: How many students did I teach? What new skills did I learn? What trips did I take? Did I spend time with the people I love? You come into this world with nothing and you leave with nothing. Making some arbitrary amount is useless if it doesn’t allow you to live the life you want.
Cover Photo- Gabrielle Mandel
Photo 1- Gabrielle Mandel
Photo 2- Left photo-Madaylnne Flanigan, pattern- @simplicity_creative_group, right photo- Gabrielle Mandel
Photo 3- Photograph by Madaylnne Flanigan, Model- @blaire_donovan
Photo 4- Left photo- Gabrielle Mandel, Right Photo- Madaylnne Flanigan, Model- @samanthaneira
Photo 5- Left photo- Gabrielle Mandel, Right Photo- Madaylnne Flanigan, Student- @thecol0110
Photo 6- Gabrielle Mandel