What would Madonna do? That’s a question Erin Magee asks herself every day. “She’s my fashion icon, my musical icon—my everything icon,” gushes the Canada-born fashion designer. “I grew up in a small suburb and moved to New York when I was 18 because of Madonna. She moved here with $34 and made a whole life for herself and inspired me to do the same.” While Magee insists she barely holds a candle to the pop icon, they do share some similarities—primarily, their work ethic.
“I’m always working. I’m working right now!” she says late on a Tuesday night. And her hard work has paid off. After stints working at Umbro and Supreme, Magee launched her own women’s fashion line, MadeMe, in 2007, and the very first season quickly sold out. Later, Alicia Keys was photographed in one of Magee’s leather jackets, and new rap sensation Nicki Minaj was so taken by a MadeMe fur vest—never mind that it was Magee’s own personal, very worn-in piece—that she asked to keep it, sweat stains and all.
Back to Madonna (a transition that happens a lot during the interview): Magee gets started on a tour of her tattoos. “Remember Dennis Rodman? He was dating Madonna when I was 15, and he had a flaming Egyptian ankh around his belly button.” Magee forged the permission slip to get a similar ankh on her hip. “I was fucking 15 years old and I took it upon myself to get a tattoo,” she laughs. Her second tattoo is a replica of work by pop artist Keith Haring (a favorite of Madonna). The third was more Madonna: an image of her Justify My Love album cover that spans from Magee’s right armpit to the bottom of her right hip. “My favorite is the Madonna. Getting that done for a year on your rib cage is pretty invasive and really painful, but he did a great job. It looks fucking amazing.” Other pieces include Magee’s initials (formed by humping skeletons) on her left biceps, the MadeMe logo (a beating or broken heart, depending on how you look at it) over her heart, an assortment of bird feathers on the back of her arm and down her neck (Magee’s friends used to call her Big Bird), and Mrs. Albino (representing her new married name) across her right breast.
“My hair and eyelashes are very blond, so my friends used to call me albino when I was growing up,” Magee says. “Everyone thought it was so funny that I was getting married to someone named Albino [pronounced al-bean-o].” Friends who call you Big Bird and albino? When INKED suggests Magee look for a new crew, the designer laughs it off and says it’s all in good fun. After all, that’s what Madonna would do.