Locally Grown: Max Donahue

Max Donahue is a teenage designer from Massachusetts. I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about his inspiration, the process that goes into his silk screened graphic tees, and his plans for the future.

Adele Sakey: How did you enter into the world of fashion? What sparked your passion?
Max Donahue: When I was younger I would play with dolls and make dresses out of paper. As I got older, I stopped. I was afraid of being made fun of for liking things that were typically associated with girls. Throughout my education, I realized that high school is the worst and the topics I was studying didn’t make me happy. During my junior year, I started designing clothes and I realized that was the direction I wanted to go in.

A: Who or what inspires you and influences your work? (Either other fashion designers, music, art, etc)?
M: Alexander McQueen and his life inspire me so much; I love him. I also always admire couture designers because I love the intricacy of their designs. In terms of art, I love Alberto Giacometti. His style of drawing is similar to mine and the way he sees the human figure is interesting to me. With music, Frank Ocean is someone who always makes me think; I love his lyrics.

A: I noticed on your website that you make silk-screened graphic tees. Can you talk a little about the process that goes into making them and how you come up with the designs?
M: My shirts come from drawings in my sketchbook. I sketch them out and then scan them into Photoshop, where I edit them so they can be printed in black and white. I make the silk screens and then I can print the designs on to the shirts. The designs for my first series of shirts were inspired by different ways messages could be sent. I thought about how drawings and art could be used to say something, and also how messages could be sent in ways that not everyone can understand. Currently I’m working on a new series of shirts, which are inspired by love and the sociopolitical situation our country is in right now.

A: What is your favorite piece that you’ve ever created?

M: My favorite piece I’ve ever made was a dress I made last summer. It’s titled Paris Black and was my final project from a course I took at Parsons Paris. I was able to shoot the dress with my friend Dasha. Dasha was so fun to photograph and presented my dress really nicely; she’s gorgeous and we worked well together. The whole experience of making that dress and photographing it in Paris is something I’ll never forget.

A: What are your favorite current trends in fashion?
M: I love platform shoes right now. Marc Jacobs did really dramatic platform boots last spring which I loved; I love seeing platform shoes across different brands, from Fenty by Rihanna to Alexander McQueen platform sneakers. I also love how (faux!) fur is being used more frequently as an accent for pieces, i.e. seeing fur sleeves on a jacket.

A: Where do you see/hope to see the world of fashion progressing to in the future?
M: I hope that designers keep using their voices and working to change society. I think it’s an artist’s job to create in times of injustice, and with America’s political situation right now, I think fashion can make the people’s voices heard. What you wear inherently makes a statement, so I hope that fashion will progress by continuing to express our feelings through clothes.

A: What are your goals for the future of YOUR fashion career?
M: I want to make the most of my education at Parsons starting next year, and I really want to understand the industry more. Long term, I would love to have my own label, but we’ll see where things go. Right now I want to gain experience and start building my career by learning and working with other designers.

Be sure to keep up with Max via Instagram (@mxadonahue) or his website.

text: adele sakey
visuals: max donahue
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