The MAD studio is a wide open space; every inch is painted white to maximize the natural light. Current projects are scattered neatly throughout the room, and a walk around the studio tells you that they are architects, textile artists, concrete workers, clothing designers, art directors, and interior designers. Dan Clark and Martha McQuade have created something pretty amazing.
"[W]e're trying to do many more things, at least right now. I mean, that's the idea. That's the thing that we're really after. And one thing that, in the coursework that we've taught together for a long time, that we've talked with students about, is how little difference there is between doing, say, a building, or making a shirt... And so that idea that it's really how you go about it, rather than the actual thing you're making, that's important, that's really what unifies all the things that we do."
The idea that the process is most important is really what sets MAD apart from other designers. When they have a new project, Dan and Martha don't design the end result and work backwards, but instead they simply start working and adjust as they go, creating something that's sometimes surprising.
"[O]ften we won't even have a sketch, but we'll just build something full scale. And test it again and again and again. And it seems like that works better, at least for us, because we're making something to fit a body, you know? And so on a sketch you can make it look like anything, but is it going to work that way with that material?"
"We just don't know, we haven't been formally trained, so, I think we learn a lot, and maybe do things in an unorthodox way that, and we learn from that... Other pattern makers might go, '*gasp*! I would never do that!', you know, but then they might not ... learn that either."
In addition to learning and discovering along the way, this method of building the garment first and making the pattern later is also a less wasteful process. By experimenting with fabric on the form, MAD significantly reduces the number of samples made compared to other designers. There's no need for multiple sample drafts that are ultimately discarded, but instead a single prototype that may even be sold as the final garment.
"[W]e can grab something like this blue dress over here we were working on, and [we were] talking about this seam that would roll over the sleeve and couldn't get it to work. Like in our heads it was working, and then, you know we just kept inching it, you know, tweaking it, take it off the model, you know, cut and write and sew and move, and all of a sudden BAM! We had it. And it was like a piece of clay that you're just molding ... And then we take it all apart and make a pattern from that piece. Which is really nice."
Sustainability is an idea that comes pretty naturally to Dan and Martha, partly because they are architects, and sustainability in architecture is certainly not a new concept, but also because, to them, it just makes sense.
"I think we should always be designing with sustainability in mind ... I don't think of it all the time, it's just something that's inherent in... the way we design and think about design."
"One thing that very rarely gets discussed is that the better designed a thing is, like, if you make it beautiful, it just by default winds up being sustainable, because people want to keep it around."
MAD's commitment to beautiful, quality design handmade in their Minneapolis studio is why I am so excited to work with them. Not only will I be carrying an exclusive collection after Hazel & Rose opens, but Dan and Martha are also the interior designers for the Hazel & Rose storefront. They have brought their unique vision and created something that's both modern and timeless that I can't wait to share.
Before I ended my formal interview with Dan and Martha, I had to ask: did they have a favorite project?
"I feel like when I'm working on something, it's my favorite thing. For a while. And then maybe I need to move to something else."
Sounds like they're doing things right.