Willie X Grim

AKA Madeline Mehler

AGE: 22

SCHOOL: Kent State University

BiRTHPLACE: Erie, Pennsylvania

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Q: When did you know you were creative? 

A: I think I always remember needing to make things. The mediums and outlets in which I created changed over the years, but the same desire to make something from nothing was always there. 

Q: What does being an artist mean to you?

A: Being an artist means having a passion and sensitivity for expressing ideas. It means wanting to bring a vision or an emotion to other people and using your art to transport them there. 

Q: Which is more prominent to you, art or fashion? 

A: Art fuels fashion. I think you have to have some appreciation for art to love fashion at all.  

Q: What inspires your designs? 

A: The weird, confusing, and questionable. 

Q: How would you describe your style? Now describe it in 3 eras of time.

A: Deliciously frivolous. I would say my style draws a lot from current pop culture and media, but there are hints of early 20th century vintage and sportswear of the Y2K era. 

Q: What is the first piece of clothing you’ve ever made and how did it make you feel when you finished it?

A: I was in grade school and had just learned how to operate a sewing machine, I made a very ill-fitting tube dress out of blue linen and gold satin. I was really impressed with myself when I made it and my mom still keeps it to this day but it feels really silly to look back on now and see how my skills have evolved. 

Q: Do you feel like it is harder or easier to express one’s creative self in 2019?

A: The distribution of ideas is definitely easier, but I would say as a result, the lines between creative expression and replication have been blurred.

Q: Which place in the universe do you feel reflects your work the most? 

A: I think sporters of street-style in Tokyo would pull off Willie Grim really well. There’s a certain fearlessness that comes with Japanese street fashion.

Q: Are there any repetitive themes and patterns in your work? If so, what are they and what do they mean?

A: The name “Willie Grim” itself is meant to symbolize a dichotomy of perspectives on life: the hopeful and the pessimistic. “Willie” representing the frivolous, spontaneous, and humorous; contrasted against the “Grim” reminder that these things in life are fleeting. I wanted the message of the brand to encourage my customers to embrace this frivolity, against the impermanence of life. In my designs, this often manifests as fun colors and cheeky details contrasted against edgy silhouettes and dark motifs. 

Q: Do you have any favorite designers or artists? Who are they and why?

A: These artists are constantly reminding me to push my own boundaries:

  • Sally Hewett – she’s an incredible textile artist who’s changing the game for body-positivity.
  • MeLoveMeAlot – a digital surrealist and apparel designer; her work is positively extraterrestrial.
  • Matieres Fecales – their work consists of freaky special effects. They broke Instagram with their unsettling aesthetics.


Q: What is the most original thing about your brand?

A: A lot of my products are one of a kind and made by hand. I don’t like to make  garments more than once. So, although you’ll often seen my work is inspired by trends, my clients have the opportunity to take home something that no one else will have. 

Q: Is there any realm of artistry that you want to try but haven’t?

A: Shoe-making and wig-making. It’d be so cool to be able to construct a look from top to bottom.

Q: What 3 songs best describes your style of clothing?

A: Thug Life – Brockhampton

Fun! – Vince Staples

I Ain’t Got Time – Tyler the Creator

Q: What are some of your future goals and aspirations?

A: Dress a famous drag queen, run a Willie Grim storefront, and get published in vogue.

Q: Would you say that art and fashion has had an impact on you? How?

A: Art and fashion dictate almost everything in my life. Without the incentive to create I wouldn’t be doing much else. 

Q: Tell us a something about you that people wouldn’t guess off first glance.

A: I’m a pessimist! But I use that to my advantage. The power I have as a designer is that I can create what I want to see in my world. 

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