Earlier this year, designer Madeline Weinrib announced that she was closing her business after an astonishing 20 years. To say it sent shock waves across the design community would be an understatement. Why, everyone wondered, would she decide to shutter (not even sell) such an iconic brand? In the months since, Madeline has spoken about the difficult decision and in doing so, shed light on what has become an all too common problem: knock-offs.
Known for her vibrant, exotic textiles and graphic rugs, Madeline’s patterns have become ubiquitous - but it wasn’t always that way. Rewind to the 1980s, when she studied painting at Marymount College in New York. In the wonderful podcast Clever, she talks about the influence of that time, when the city was alive with art. Creatives like Keith Haring were engaging the public through street art, galleries were booming, and Madeline began exhibiting her work. Eventually she made the transition from fine artist to carpet designer – something that was not widely done at the time – after stumbling upon a rug that reminded her of a series of charcoal drawings she was working on. The idea was planted and, with a strong foundation in art history, she traveled to far-flung destinations - India, Morocco, Uzbekistan – envisaging ways to contemporise traditional motifs. Playing with scale and color, she introduced these patterns to a new audience and brought terms like “ikat” and “suzani” into the popular vernacular.
As it turns out however, in our increasingly digital world, copycats have made it impossible to sustain the business. The rise of the Internet and more recently, social media, has fueled an explosion of knock-offs that proved a financial and emotional drain. Rather than wage legal warfare or sell her name, Madeline has shuttered the business in favor of focusing on her creative passion – small scale, artistic endeavors. She’s currently soaking up the endless inspiration that Marrakesh has to offer, and has become a partner in El Fenn, her friend Vanessa Branson’s riad. There she’s designing a capsule collection for the boutique and stocking it with finds from her travels. They are not available online so if you want to scoop one up, you’ll have to go for a visit. Separate from that endeavor, she will soon debut a collection of bespoke carpets designed for the estate of her friend, the late poet and artist Rene Ricard. If all that isn’t exciting enough, Maddy (as her friends call her) has also secured a new studio space in Manhattan. From there she plans to explore whatever new projects the future may hold - and we're sure there will be many.