We had the good fortune of connecting with Madeline Cook and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Madeline, why did you pursue a creative career?
To this day, choosing to apply for the Fashion Design Program at CSU was the most random, yet intuitive decision I have ever made. I walked in to a meeting with an Advisor undeclared, and within the hour I chose to dedicate my entire first semester to applying to this program. This maybe seemed crazy considering I had absolutely zero sewing experience. What I did have was a childhood loving Polly Pocket for her millions of outfits, and years of watching project runway with my mom.
After five months of dedication and doubt, I submitted my portfolio to be reviewed and was one of twenty chosen to major in Fashion Design. I was over the moon! I had a major learning curve to overcome as most had a decent amount of sewing experience. However, my time in this program lit a fire in my heart that I had never felt before. I knew I had intuitively stepped onto my creative path and that I needed to continue in this direction to blossom my career. I have always been passionate about doing what you love. Trust your intuition, it knows where to take you!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a one woman show! All of the designs coming out of MadZinnia are my own that began as illustrations. I do all of the pattern making and draping, grading up in sizing, hand dyeing, sewing, and shipping. I use bamboo and hemp fabrics and dye everything myself using either low impact dyes (that do not have heavy metals, do not require heat and are very low in water usage) and/or natural dyes once I accumulate enough. These include avocado pits and skins, onion skins and citrus peels.
My path has not been easy! There was a moment in the middle of my education at CSU where I seriously reconsidered if I chose the right degree. My learning curve in the beginning with zero sewing experience had me feeling a lot of doubt and like I was constantly playing catch up and a step behind. Since I was halfway through the program I decided to keep pushing and this was the point where I decided to veer off into working with stretch fabrics and knits. After all, if I was YouTubing the vast majority of what I was doing anyways, why not teach myself something that felt more practical and true to what I wanted to do. The constant words of encouragement from my peers kept me going as well. Since the program was so small it was pretty tight knit and I really loved that about it.
I learned how essential it is working into a specific niche, which for me ended up being underwear/loungewear. It is important to be clear with your vision so that is clearly communicated with your audience. Another big lesson I learned after years of trying to grow MadZinnia was that I needed to step into my own self worth. I had worked for companies that showed me what was possible, and yet my subconscious held doubt. I did a lot of work on myself and that has truly opened up opportunities and growth for my brand over time. Since everything MadZinnia comes from me, my essence and love is very much put into the clothes I create. Zinnia stands for goodness and thoughts of friends which I hope those who wear my items can feel, similar to a hug from a loved one.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many great local businesses here in Fort Collins! I of course have to shoutout the yoga studio I work for, Meraki Yoga Studio. They are a boutique studio and offer a wide variety of classes in a truly beautiful space which is always fun to enjoy by yourself or with a friend.
I absolutely love eating at Little which has the yummiest small bites and drinks. Coffee or matcha from Bindle is a must, and they have some really yummy snacks as well. As a Colorado native, I love the outdoors so I always encourage a visit up Poudre Canyon as there is a wide variety of trails and areas around the river to enjoy. Emmaline Lake Trail is my absolute favorite, but have an entire day set aside for this one as it is pretty long and you will want to bask in the glory of the top. Finish it up with a delicious dinner from either Jax if you love seafood or Jessup Farm. Both have seasonal menus and are my favorites to hit up for special occasions.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mom! She was someone I looked up to creatively. As a child she always had fun crafts for us to do, and while we were being kids with our craft she was putting mosaics together, sewing our halloween costumes, beading intricate necklaces, and otherwise being a creative master. She weaved through many mediums in her creativity and showed me you can have always have curiosity and explore.
All images are by my lovely photographer Emily Behnke of Emily Elizabeth Photography. Her Instagram handle is @emilyelizabethphotog