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At Work: Mary McFadden

One grand space works as selling area, entertainment room, and principal's office on a level of intimacy that speaks of an individual taste for art.

For Coty Award-winner and American fashion leader Mary McFadden, art and clothign are inseparable. Her body-beautification designs are themselves wearable works of art inspired by the art of many different periods.

The influence of art also permeates the physical surroundings of Mary McFadden, Inc., which are housed on two floors of a loft building in New York's garment district. One floor houses the "behind-the-scenes" aspects of the business, such as the studio and factory where clothing is designed and made, the business offices and McFadden's "nitty-gritty" workspace and extensive art and design library.

On the other floor, however, is the public face of the multi-million-dollar-a-year operation. This is a Fantasyland filled with art and antiques where the designer presents her exterior image, seeing clients, showing new collections, being interviewed by the press, and entertaining people wherever necessary. Lunch is served here to friends and business associates, underlining the trend toward executive offices that are designed for pleasure as well as commercial activity.

The orchestration of color is one of the most impressive aspects of this loft space. The walls and ceiling are painted midnight blue, which contributes a feeling of intimacy to a room of expansive dimensions. Against this background, shapes, colors and textures are arranged with a keen eye for balance and detail.

McFadden travels thousands of miles each year seeking inspiration for her designs from other countries and cultures, and this is instantly visible in her office-showroom. Oriental ceramics, primitive art and handwoven baskets filled with fresh flowers are all around. A set of eighteenth-century English bamboo chairs flank what must be the most spectacular executive desk in New York - a massive wooden table designed by noted sculptor Mark DiSuvero which adapts for dining at the appropriate moment.

Art covers the floor in the form of an exquisitely colored Tibetan antique dhurrie, and hangs from the ceiling in the shape of gossamer-wing-like fabric sculptures by Dennis Valenski. Examples of McFadden's own art collection are framed on the walls. It is an ambiance that reflects an extraordinarily creative mind. Because McFadden takes nothing in the visual world for granted, the result is a work environment that is undiluted pleasure.

In the art-filled headquarters of Mary McFadden, Inc. the gossamer-wing-like sculpture hanging from the ceiling was once in a stage set. The floor is covered with an original antique Tibetan dhurrie. The space functions for multiple activities - entertaining clients, showing fashion collections, and as the principle's working office.

Photos by Jon Naar. Scanned from Designer' Workplaces by Beverly Russell, 1983.

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