A strange but potent mix of influences catapulted 27-year-old German Madrigal from serving grande lattes to winning the coveted Emerging Designer prize during this year’s local design showcase, FashioNXT. At the October show, the Salem native impressed both the judges and the crowd with a futuristic, gender-neutral collection full of sleek tailoring and vibrant pops of cobalt blue against stark black and white fabrics.
The win capped two busy years for the Art Institute of Portland student. Madrigal won a local design contest for repurposing an old bedazzled wedding gown into a chic, modern look; he showed at Portland Fashion Week; and last February the Art Institute plucked him from among 40 students nationwide to debut a collection at the school’s New York Fashion Week showcase. (He’ll be back again this February.) Those endeavors come after the full-time job as a barista, part-time retail work, and, of course, his studies—but he’s used to working double-time.
Madrigal was born with just one kidney. He spent his early years in and out of hospitals, until his mother donated one of her own kidneys to him when he was 7. Every day, he still swallows a handful of anti-rejection pills—and a stark reminder of mortality. After finishing high school, he was on a predawn shift in a Starbucks drive-thru when fashion came calling.
“I had an epiphany in the middle of serving coffee,” he recalls. “I realized I didn’t want to just serve people who were on their way to their big jobs. If I only have so much time to live, I’m going to live the life that I want to. That idea is what pushed me to go to design school.”
A month later he was in orientation. Once accepted as a finalist for FashioNXT, he hunkered down to produce his “Equilibrium” collection, watching the Beyoncé documentary Life Is But a Dream on repeat for inspiration—and a reminder to be fierce—while he sewed the bold, minimalist line.
“Not everyone has the same aesthetic,” he says. “There are people lurking in corners you wouldn’t expect, and people with different visions. I wanted to share my voice, and come out with a roar.”