The community of creative folks in downtown New York has long been revered (and copied) for its unique, authentic sense of style, which is why so many cool clothing and accessories brands, however small, emerge from the area. One such label is Madison Harding, founded in 2007 by Barri Budin and Hilary Koyfman (who has since left the company), which has garnered a loyal following among editors and bloggers for its vintage-inspired footwear.
Over the past year, Madison Harding has made some major changes to its business model — specifically, moving from wholesale to direct-to-consumer, allowing it to lower prices without sacrificing quality. In addition, the team has focused on building out its brand messaging through social media and editorial content on its website, which features collaborations with like-minded locals including stylist Stevie Dance, photographer Petra Collins and editorial manicurist Madeline Poole. This led to a more organic connection between the brand and its customers, who were hungry for categories beyond footwear. After experimenting with a small capsule collection of handbags, the label started working on a tightly edited range of clothing, which officially debuts this week.
Budin, the brand's co-founder and creative director, says that she's consistently inspired by interesting, independent women with eclectic personal style — the same demographic she's aiming to dress. "They mix high and low — they're not label whores; they follow fashion, but they're not slaves to fashion," she explains. The retro inspiration that frequently appears on the brand's Instagram and in the shoe collections comes from Budin's personal tastes as well. "I have always shopped vintage... it was an easy way for me to be creative and build my own look in a more affordable way, which is sort of the reason why we started the business to begin with."
Though small, the first Madison Harding clothing collection is well-rounded, made up of dresses, rompers, skirts and tops in velvet, knit and lace that can be mixed and matched with denim, vintage T-shirts or professional silk blouses for the office. There's a distinct '70s vibe as well — something that's been part of the brand's DNA from day one — and the decade's prevalence on recent runways makes the timing of the launch seem just right. "I will always connect to [the '70s], probably because I was born in that decade and also because it speaks to me," Budin says. "It's kind of raunchy, the silhouettes are awesome. Now that it's kind of a 'thing,' I'll take it! It’s helpful for sure, and I think it's gotten us more attention."
A "Cruel Intentions"-inspired lookbook showcases the subtly sexy line, which is priced between $68 and $165. As for the biggest challenges in branching out from accessories, Budin admits that she obsessed over the fit, making sure every piece could work together (and with all of her shoes) and represent the brand in a way that didn't seem cliché. "It's modern but it has an essence of vintage," she says. "[Conveying] that wasn't easy, but I think we did it pretty well."
The Madison Harding collection is available to shop on the brand's website now; click through the gallery below to browse the fall lookbook, produced by Chrissie Miller.