Last week, fashion rubbed up against music at the Mercury Lounge in New York's Lower East Side, where MADE Music threw their inaugural event. The showcase line-up featured an up-start rapper from New Orleans named Pell as well as Brooklyn-based singer and visual artist Bosco, and was topped by iLoveMakonnen. It of course did not go without notice that it was, in fact, a Tuesday.
Mazdack Rassi (co-founder and Creative Director of Milk Studios), Jenné Lombardo (branding consultant and founder of The Terminal Presents), and leading production specialist Keith Baptista launched MADE in 2009 with the mission of providing resources and a platform to young or up-and-coming designers. Over the course of the last ten seasons, their accompanying MADE Fashion Week has become a formidable disruption to the official Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, drawing industry insiders from even the highest ranks to their shows. The likes of Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler, and Public School can now count themselves as MADE Fashion Week alum.
Now that trio is expanding their efforts to include music. As they see it, they've long been in the business of championing musicians—incidentally, at least. "Music was the DNA of what our fashion week was. It was the thread, it was the passion. And at night when we would do events, we had all these incredible artists that we found that were performing there late night," said Rassi, making easy sense of MADE's latest move. "We never really organized it, but it was already there. There are a lot of people who had their first gig at Milk," he said.
With American Express' backing and the guidance of industry vets like Lyor Cohen and entertainment lawyer Michael Guido, MADE Music will provide a select group of musicians with individualized support—be it rehearsal space, recording studio access, creative direction, amplification, licensing, distribution, or mentorship—for a year. Along the way, they'll also host a series of showcases like last Tuesday's that will bill MADE Music artists alongside already established artists. MADE Music artists will not be tasked with deadlines or assignments; the aim of the program is simply to empower artists.
"Each artist's needs are different, and we don't want this to be a cookie cutter program," said Baptista. "We want it to be about how you empower artistry, and if we can do that successfully, then we've achieved our goal." Walter Frye, Director of Entertainment Marketing and Sponsorships for American Express, seconds that notion, adding, "We're looking to empower artists. And if what we do helps them grow, that's an investment."
Bosco was piqued by the prospect of "[creating] without thinking about how I am going to be able to pay a graphic designer or a videographer." The singer credits her early success to her art school cred and DIY ethos, but she told FADER during a pre-show conversation that the access and the financial support MADE is offering would enable her to see bolder visions to fruition. "When the stress is taken off you monetary-wise, you're not limited," she said. "To have a vision, but then have that backing to actually execute to that caliber of work—it's just limitless, and it's just leaps and bounds beyond what I can do by myself."
And if MADE Music takes off the way MADE Fashion has, the film makers directing Bosco's videos or the visual artists designing her album art might also be welcomed under the MADE umbrella. "We don't differentiate between [pillars of artistry], so if this program keeps growing, there's not reason why we don't look at other parts of the creative community," Rassi says.