The second that I saw the press release announcing the work of Mady Gerrard, I knew that she was someone I needed to know more about. She was a 1970s crochet designer, which I adore, and she’s an 84-year-old woman who is still going strong with her crochet work today, which I adore even more. I immediately delved into her informative website and fell in love.
Vintage 1970s Couture Designer
Mady Gerrard was a popular couture designer in the 1970s. She created clothing for Dionne Warwick and Patricia Nixon, among others. She was the recipient of a 1974 American Design Award for her knitwear. Her vintage 1970s crochet designs are edgy but adorable. Check them out on her beautiful press page!
More About Mady
Mady was born in Hungary, lives in rural Wales and has been based around the world at various times during her long career. She has lived a rich full life, which is documented in her memoir, Full Circle, which includes the experience she had of surviving the Holocaust concentration camps. I haven’t read the book, yet, but promptly ordered it and can’t wait for it to arrive so I can learn more about her. Last month Mady was the main speaker at Wales’ national commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in Cardiff, dedicating her talk to Lieutenant John Randall who liberated her as a young prisoner in Belsen. (source)
Mady learned to crochet at just five years old, when she was taught by her great aunt Gisella who owned a wool / needlecraft/ haberdashery shop in Budapest. She was living with her aunt after her parents divorced; her mother died when she was only 7. Mady has been hooked on the craft ever since her aunt taught her. As an adult she learned knitwear design from evening classes, but this was during a time when women were unable to make a profit from their items so everything she created was promptly shipped off to Russia as part of a cooperative knitting program. It wasn’t until after she left the area, fleeing communism, that she began to design as a creative career. She has operated small boutiques in a couple of different cities over the years.
Although she knits, Mady prefers to crochet, finding it more creative as well as easier to create structured well-shaped garments. Mady also enjoys silk painting. You can see and purchase her silk painted and crocheted items in her online shop.
Mady Gerrard Loves Color
She shares on her website:
“My whole design process begins with a yarn. I will see a beautiful yarn and then become inspired to create a certain shape of garment. I LOVE colour and refuse to be guided by fashion, as such. We should all wear colours that suit us, not colours that we are told are in vogue, this season or that. I cannot stress the importance of colour. I would even go as far as to say that colour is more important than shape. If someone comes through the door in a beautiful red dress, you will always notice the colour before the shape!”
She mentions her love of color in her Twitter bio and adds that she also loves “dinner parties, talking to interesting people, good coffee, George Clooney …” I love this! And she adds on her Etsy: “Life without color is like a catwalk without style.”
In the 1980s she gained attention for creating beautiful, colorful, fashionable clothes for plus-size women. She encouraged women to be bold and stylish in their clothing choices, regardless of their size. Over the years she’s also gained specific attention for her crochet and knit coats, her high-fashion knitwear gowns and her custom one-of-a-kind commissioned clothing.
Of this popularity, she says on Etsy:
“Maybe this is because I’m a free spirit and a very bad copier,” she explains. “Everything I did came from my own idea and was never a replica of what the other fashion gurus were turning out. This meant that my clothes were different and unique and this is what got me noticed and appreciated.”
Crocheting for the Stars
In a 2010 interview with Nigel Jarrett, Mady shared:
The quirkiest client was film star Celeste Holm, who was on stage in New York when Mady first designed for her. They hit it off because Holm herself was a compulsive knitter, her needles on the go at every opportunity at rehearsal and during intermissions.
“She began bringing uncompleted garments for me to finish for her, such as a ridiculously-shaped piece for her husband. Most of the time I had to unpick them and start from scratch. But she was an absolutely lovely woman, like Dionne Warwick. The first time Dionne came to me she wanted the same suit in nine different colours.”