First off, congratulations on becoming a mother! Can you talk about the ways you’ve changed, even though this is all brand new?
I know it sounds cliche but I didn’t know the vastness of my heart. All I want to do is stare at Maddalena and make her giggle. But there’s also an intense desire to do everything in my power to make the world a better one for her.
You shot our summer collection with your husband/photographer Gabriel Hernandez. What was that like?
We started shooting three weeks after Maddalena was born and continued off and on between feeds and cries until she was three months. It was wonderfully intimate having my husband document my changing postpartum body in Araks’ radiant colors and fabrics. I think we tend to give women’s pregnant bodies attention but often fail to celebrate the beauty of the body right after childbirth.
Can you tell us about your upbringing and background? What was your childhood like, and how were creativity and self-expression cultivated in your adolescence?
I grew up in Austin, Texas and had super thick bifocals from age one. Everything was either completely blurry or super magnified so I was always seeing the world in form and color. I was always crouched down on the ground staring at something up close.
Can you share a memory from your childhood, something that was creatively impactful?
My big sister dragged me to Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation in Marfa when I was nine and it first opened to the public. I’d never seen anything like it and was changed. Afterward, I started gathering industrial trash from the neighborhood construction sites and making collages. I knew I wanted to be a maker.
How did your focus become shoe design?
When I was a fiber student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago the artist Nick Cave was the chair of the fashion department and he convinced me to move over. There I made shoes from scratch and fell in love with footwear’s scale and its ability to be sculptural while needing to be highly functional.
What has been your favorite design job, and can you tell us a bit about it?
I really enjoyed designing shoes for Sies Marjan. It got me out of my minimalist comfort zone and into color play and irreverent psychedelic curves. Now at ECCO I’m loving learning about and incorporating innovative comfort technology.
Can you share a sketch or photograph (or two, or three) of your most favorite designs?
What shoes did you like to wear as a child?
It was all jellies all the time. Then dragon embroidered mary janes and cream Converse with orchestra friend’s scribbling all over them.
You are a classically trained cellist. What was your introduction to music?
My dad played the double bass at Oberlin in the 60s and my older brother followed suit. Every morning we would load up my brother’s bass down the middle of our tiny VW bug and we’d all squish to the side to get to school.
Why the cello? Do you play other instruments?
My older sis played the cello and I looked up to her and got a mini three-quarter size. No, but my friend Michael got me a pickup for my cello when I was in college and I started playing a bit in bands and recording so the cello kind of transformed from an analog classical instrument into something electric and more raw.
What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I have the same feeling when I pick up my cello as I do with anything creative that’s truly for myself- the outside world melts away just a little bit and I feel present and calm.
You created a Spotify playlist for us. Can you introduce the mix?
Just some chill tunes for summer, everything from dub to folk.
How are you staying creative and/or expressing your creativity during this time?
In my backyard! I’m trying my hand at urban gardening, playing with colors and textures through plants and pots and squished mulberries from our neighbor's tree.
What are the silver linings you see, if any, at this time?
It was a hyper baby bubble.
What have you been wearing since March?
While everyone was living in pajama pants I was obsessed with denim since my pregnancy starved me of it for a while. On top some form of a tank and on bottom Adidas pool slides.
Describe your style in three words?
Loungy, understated, nineties
Can you tell us about some of your muses through the years?
In high school, it started with french new wave actresses, then on to Jane Fonda in Klute, Rolling Stones girlfriends, and Sissy Spacek. And Willie Nelson, always Willie Nelson.
Can you describe the outfit that you feel the best in? Can you tell us why it makes you feel so good?
I have a 90s floral tunic and pants set I got at the Rose Bowl around the time I met Gabriel. It’s light and flowy and makes me feel free. I can feel the Californian sun and the thrill of new love when I wear it.
What was the last thing you purchased that brought you real pleasure? Oysters fresh off the boat.
Favorite Decade? 1970s
Hidden Talent? Inability to close things: cabinets, jars, toothpaste etc.
What is something you've loved for a long time? My mom
What is something you would love to learn? All the constellations.
Can you share a favorite quotation, lyric, or line from a book or song that has stuck with you?
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
What is something that you feel is overrated? Underrated?
Can you tell us a joke?
Q: How does a farmer mend his pants?
A: Cabbage patches!
Please fill in the blank? - Beauty is... wandering
Thank you, Emily!
Follow Emily @emilymadd
Listen to her playlist.
All photography by Gabriel Hernandez @islandneartahiti