Any creative will testify to the fact that their main goal is simply to live inspired. We absolutely thrive in any situation where we get the urge to introduce a feeling through our work. More times than not, we find that type of inspiration in more than one craft. The problem we’re left to solve is figuring out how to successfully blend our efforts into one satisfactory existence on this Earth. In other words, how the hell can we do everything we love? It’s important to identify examples of the careers we aspire to have, and for me that example is Josh Madden.
A true lover of the culture, you don’t find Josh over selling himself or making a big fuss about all of the work he’s done. Nonetheless, if you want to talk about pioneers and true influencers then you cannot leave his name off of the list. He’s played a heavy hand in structuring and curating many of the experiences we’ve enjoyed throughout our youth.
What immediately stuck out to me during our conversation was Josh’s genuine love for the experiences he’s been able to live through as a result of the work he’s done. He doesn’t care about the paychecks, or the reputation that comes from working with well-known brands. For him, it’s all about getting to reflect on the nostalgia of encountering some of the biggest names in creative culture, before they were big names.
“If you stick to your instincts and don’t get caught up in the bullshit, you can be fucking HUGE. I know a bunch of millionaires, but they don’t excite me as much as the day I met Eddie Huang, Wil Fry, Emanuel “Mano” Nickerson, Steve Aoki, or G-Eazy. The day I meet people is always more exciting.”
Madden finds delight in these moments because he appreciates passion and potential. He believes that passion is at the helm of progression, and progression is everything. This mindset makes complete sense considering the path he’s traveled to get where he is today.
Growing up in Maryland, Josh Madden was not raised in a very diverse area. However, that did not stop him from having an eclectic taste and outlook on life from an early age. He listened to Tupac just as much as Metallica, Stevie Wonder, BB & CC Winans, The Cure, Operation Ivy and classical music. Though music was obviously an area of interest for him, fashion is where he first decided to express himself creatively.
“I knew I had a knack for the fashion thing since I was young, because even though it wasn’t around me, media was my window. I studied it so heavily, and not even on purpose.”
Josh would go on to earn admission into Greensboro College. The city of Greensboro, NC served as a true home for his personal growth, the way most college towns do. A quick walk down memory lane brought Josh to back to a time when he contemplated dropping out of school on multiple occasions. He credits a woman named Cynthia Hanson, former head of the School of Business at Greensboro College for fighting him on the idea and keeping him enrolled.
His knack for fashion resurfaced in 2000 when Josh founded MADE after graduating with his degree in Marketing & Economics. During a time when he was working construction back in Washington DC, living with no heat or hot water; his brother Joel of Good Charlotte partnered with the seed money of $500 to start the clothing line back when they both were broke. Ironically it would be a quote from one of the first MADE shirts that went on to be the title of Good Charlotte’s wildly successful album, “The Young and the Hopeless.”
Made was a widely popular clothing company, however the Madden brothers were forced to shut it down due to trademarking issues. The success that stemmed from it was enough to help propel Josh to the next level in his career. He was earning his stripes in New York styling for the likes of Nylon. It was an interesting time in his life as he watched friends get famous while he remained in the background styling, directing and curating projects.
“I had to learn to not be selfish. Everything I had to work with, I worked with because I loved it. I didn’t make anybody, folks allowed me to be a part of their equation. Any person that’s famous, they’re special people. The world loves these people for a reason and it’s my job to big them up.”
Josh went on to explain the importance of being fully cooperative and engaged. We live in a world where we’re taught to go against each other in the pursuit of success. He believes this to be an unhealthy approach to personal satisfaction and career growth, because our voices are to be used to lift up and praise the people we believe in.
Good karma stems from that, and Josh’s life and work can be attributed to good karma just as much as hard work. His resume speaks for itself and is a testament to remaining patient and working toward the opportunities you desire. As a stylist he’s overseen campaigns, editorials, lookbooks, runway shows, and brand ambassadorship for Ben Sherman, Timberland, Paper Magazine, House of Cassette, Kangol and more. He’s written, directed, and produced for Nylon Magazine and Good Charlotte as well.
A lover of music at heart, fate would provide an opportunity for Josh to deliver good vibes from the DJ booth after filling in for accomplished DJ and respected music industry veteran Sarah Lewitinn aka UltraGrrrl. Sometimes a natural high is the fuel you need to send you into the next direction of success and Josh got the proper high from rocking a crowd.
He’d add DJ’ing to his resume spinning at Sundance, New York, Paris, Amsterdam and London Fashion Week shows as well as award show after parties. Josh Madden is a rare example of what it’s like to be a jack-of-all-trades. A man in his position could easily bask in his own glory, but his humility keeps him grounded. Regardless of his success, his real passion is empowering those he believes in, especially the new generation of creators.
There were plenty of gems to take away from our conversation but these 5 are words of advice that we all can stand to benefit from.
Have Fun With It, Even In Dire Times
“I’ve been thousands, and thousands of dollars in debt and during those times I made some of the dopest shit. My biggest regret is that I was so focused on getting out of the red that I don’t even remember those moments when I created my best work. Never forget to enjoy the process.”
Show Love & Be Supportive
“We owe it to each other to show support and pass knowledge along.”
Find Your Clarity & Maintain It
“The people who make it are relentless and they have clarity. Pray, meditate, do whatever it is you do. Everybody’s trying to figure it out, and people all find their own code. The recipe that makes you is most important.”
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
“There’s so much hardship behind the scenes that goes unseen. People get ripped off and taken advantage of. It’s tough to be in the space where you know people are looking at you. A celebrity is nothing but a person who’s work we celebrate. Just work. All of the people who the audience obsesses over all have the same human struggle. Creativity has an all time high in value because energy has an all time high in value. If you’re willing to work, and really get your hands dirty you’ll be fine.”
Be A Cultural Participant
“Be about the work and the message, don’t worry about getting all of the attention. You can lose out on opportunities by always trying to shine. We have to carefully define our expectations, and operate in the best interest of those expectations. A lot of times that means being unselfish.”
Josh Madden is above all else, a thankful man. Appreciative of the opportunities his creativity has afforded him. Now, with a successful career to stand on all he cares about is love and sharing all of the insight he can put into words. For that, we thank you Josh. Every generation requires tutelage, and we’re more than grateful for yours.