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Conversations with Lisa McFadden

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa McFadden.

Hi Lisa, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
Growing up in St. Louis, I was inspired at an early age to appreciate art and artists. Our mother took my sister and me to the St. Louis Art Museum, Fox Theatre, the MUNY, music festivals in Forest Park, art fairs, estate sales, etc.. probably since we could walk.

I wanted to be an artist as long I can remember and was always drawing, Until graduation from Rosati-Kain, I’d been sketching little fashion designs that floated in the center of the page. See, I decided to become a fashion designer when I saw Diana Ross in Mahagony. When the film opened with the fashion show I was immediately drawn in. Watching her sketch those large illustrations in class, walk through the corridors of the art school, and then add all the colors to the sketch on the bus sealed the deal. I went to Stephens College in Columbia to major in fashion design, but New York was always my goal, and years later, I would make it there with a stop over in Atlanta, Ga.

There, I earned my AA and BFA in fashion design at Bauder College and American Intercontinental University, respectively. Prior to that, I was primarily self-taught and took some sewing classes. Most, fortunately, not long after arriving in Atlanta with a cloth portfolio of sketches in hand from Stephens, I worked as the assistant to a local designer in the city. Her approach to design was very unconventional and taught me a lot about form and function. I believe this encouraged me to think out of the box when approaching design and life in general.

This has served me well in New York. where a thick skin, flexibility, and lots of determination are required for any kind of staying power. I’ve worked for over 20 years with large and small companies in the fashion industry; as a designer, technical designer, and illustrator. In between, I’ve done some theatre costume work and have for the last seven years been running my headwear company, LISAMCFADDEN MILLINERY.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
There will always be bumps in the road. As a creative, it can be hard to focus. Choosing an industry/career path to enter can be daunting when you want to do so many things. If you have several interests, choose one to pursue as soon as you can. The road becomes clearer and you can avoid some of those potholes.

Make sure it’s something that you have a passion for because that will enable you to stick with it, no matter what. That passion is the key to happiness. That happiness will help you get through the struggles.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am the designer and founder of LISAMCFADDEN MILLINERY, a headwear company based in Bronx, NY, creating designs that fuse function and fun with the client’s needs. My millinery point of view is inspired by vintage references. The signature CRUSH collection is a group of caps and hats that are sculpted by the wearer each time they’re worn.

The millinery capsule collections are handmade specialty creations for the discerning hat wearer using traditional and unexpected materials and techniques. I provide ready-to-ship and made-to-order options. We’ve hatted women and men in the US and abroad from Toronto to Finland. The goal is to provide our hat ambassadors with fabulous, wearable art for the head. Continuing to give them an in-person experience, even online, is what sets the brand apart.

I’ve had the amazing pleasure to work with some top Black fashion designers that I revered when I was drawing those little sketches long ago. It was a seemingly unbelievable goal to actually meet these folks, much less work with them, but there’s a lot to be said for staying focused. First, I assisted fashion icon Stephen Burrows, then was mentored by Hip Hop fashion trailblazer April Walker. Most recently, I collaborated with Byron Lars and his business partner Sheila Gray of IN EARNEST for the brand’s Fa’21 collection.

As a member of the Milliners Guild, I served on the board and was the newsletter’s editor-in-chief from 2016-2018. A highlight of my time with the group is when my headpieces entitled ‘Golden Child’ and ‘Bird of Paradise’ were displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Mezzanine Gallery for the 2018 ‘Holiday’ and 2019 ‘Camp’ themed exhibits. We also appeared on the TV series Cake Boss, and exhibited at various other venues.

My work has been published in Fault Magazine and on its cover with KeKe Palmer and fashion film: A Journey Through Black History With Keke Palmer, in American Airlines ‘Celebrated Living’ magazine, Hatalk E-Magazine, @thehatmagazine -Hats in 2019, Blackher.us, Fleek Digital Magazine, National Geographic Your Shot, CBS news. co, Women’s Wear Daily, Rolling Out magazine, Today’s Black Woman, and a feature favorite in the fashion graphic novel series, Winona, Inc.

I’ve enjoyed collaborating with non-fashion creatives as well like the textile designers at Savel, Inc., Tania Vartan, and Scott Bodenner to create bespoke headwear for showroom and window displays at the Decoration and Design Building in New York City.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
Interesting question… Most people wouldn’t know that I’ve always wanted to be a singer.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Victor Mirontschuk, David Genik, Ed Silvera, Lisa McFadden, Mark Elzey, and Keith Major

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