The Fantabulous World of Jessika Madison and Dada Die Brucke Clothing - Interview Part 1

Welcome to the first part of my interview with Jessika Madison of Dada Die Brucke, makers of fab fashions for groovy mod girls.

The Fantabulous World of Jessika Madison and Dada Die Brucke Clothing - Interview Part 1Now that original items of 60’s clothing are scarcer to find and are increasingly in a sorry condition, the best option is to get your clothes made. It may be easy to find a dressmaker who can make pinafore dresses, but if you want that really special out-and-out 60’s dress, what can you do? You need someone with the same 60’s sensibilities as yourself. Do not despair – we live in the information age, and although that means living amongst the drone of incessant mobile ring tones, it does mean that we can get clothes mail order from thousands of miles away across the globe. And not just any old clothes either… Welcome to the world of Dada Die Brüke.

You may well have already heard of the Minnesota-based 60’s clothing label Dada Die Brüke – they were featured in American scooter magazine ‘Scoot Quarterly’ last year, and are sometimes to be found at scooter rallies in the US and UK. It was started by Jessika Madison and Estelle Thielen, who were at university together. Jessika has “an immense interest in 60’s style and mod culture”, and so starting up a clothes label devoted to making clothes for the mod set was an obvious idea. Both Estelle and Jessika “had very similar ideas of starting our own design business and we have similar tastes – so we came up with this!”

1960’s style is not Estelle and Jessika’s only love, which also explains the label’s slightly unusual name. Jessika says, “I love the 1920’s, which is stylistically similar to the 1960’s in many ways. The name is derived from two art movements that we both admire, mainly for the attitudes behind the art. The Dadaists were concerned with breaking away from conventional art, and the Die Brüke movement consisted of a group of artists who were highly focused on their own interpretation of what was modern and criticizing contemporary society for not thinking for itself. These movements paved the way for early abstract artists such as Mondrian, Duchamp, and Kandinsky. All of which we both love as well! We wanted a name that didn't conjure up any preconceived images either, so why not two not-too-well-known art movements that we admire?” Indeed.

But onto the practical side of stitching threads for the mod crowd. Jessika is a very talented young lady, who makes all of her own patterns, because she doesn’t “trust bought patterns – even 60's bought patterns usually have a slightly 'relaxed' fit.” There are a wide range of influences to be found in the Dada Die Brüke clothes – “Alun Hughes, and some of John Bates clothes – though I don’t really like leather, did for the Avengers because it combines pop-art with tailoring, 60’s Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, Courreges, and Biba.” But it’s not just haute couture, because, as we know, 60’s/mod fashion had a decidedly ‘street’ aspect to it. Jessika is inspired “especially by those cool understated mod girls who are inadvertently captured in the background of the various ‘mod scene’ pictures and books! Because unlike models, they dressed themselves and are not doing it to get paid. It’s much more authentic. They’re just genuinely interested in being continental, sophisticated and stylish.” Something we can all aspire to achieve.

Having the right cut is one thing, but the right material is a must. Jessika uses “original 60's prints, but often find new fabrics that are fantastic. We avoid 60's reproduction fabrics, as they usually are slightly off the mark and often seem so obviously like reproductions.”

Once Jessika and Estelle have designed the outfit and selected the material, it’s time to get stitching. Thing is, the time it takes to make an outfit is “Longer than people think!!” It depends on the type of fabric and design. Think about it, you’re getting a hand-made, exclusively designed outfit, and Dada Die Brüke fulfill a need which us mod girls face nowadays. As Jessika says, “now that nice vintage 60’s clothes are getting harder and harder to come by, people are starting to realize that our prices aren’t high. Each garment is individually made, and that requires patterning it as well…not to mention designing it in the first place.”

Mary Quant agonized over the design of the PVC rain mac. The stitching meant that they ripped along the seams like perforated tea bags. So it’s heartening to see PVC coats in the Dada Die Brüke range. But it’s not easy. “It’s tricky and time consuming to do. I use a very soft clear vinyl and reinforce the seams in various ways to protect tearing. I had to experiment with it a lot before getting it to work.” Jessika Madison – like Mary Quant, in many ways!

Items are made as they’re ordered, which helps the exclusivity aspect, but also items are sold ‘off-the-peg’, at rallies, for example. However, selling at rallies presents problems, as Jessika and Co. “have found that at rallies people are not as prepared to pay the price for a new item after just looking at another stall of cheaper priced vintage clothes.” But people! Persevere with the more expensive, newly made items because “vintage items get more picked over, and are harder to find in nice condition so people are starting to appreciate completely new, unworn clothing made specifically to their size that stays true to a vintage style and aesthetic. That said, we brought our things to some of the Spring rallies last year – mainly Scarborough – and got a great response. It was fun to see some people wearing things that they bought from us on the Saturday to the do the same night!” If Dada Die Brüke are at your rally, no need to pack your suitcase!

As for Dada Die Brucke’s customers, the label was initially started on the Internet, but, needless to say, Jessika and Estelle have made items for people before. They find that “the internet is an ideal way to reach our customers, because we cater to such a specific group who are geographically scattered all over the globe.” Most of the Internet customers are from the US and UK, and mainland Europe, with orders sometimes winging their way from Australia and Japan. This is pretty impressive given that there isn’t any Dada Die Brüke advertising, except the links on websites and word-of-mouth. It’s not just mods on dance-floors who buy these items. Jessika says that other customers have included theatre and production companies, as well as “mod/60's bands who want things to wear on stage.” With Dada Die Brucke’s eye-catching designs, this is hardly surprising.

Jessika does not particularly admire any recent designers, because “They all seem like fad-followers to me. I hate 'fashion ' and how they try to tell people what to wear!” This explains why Jessika likes designing vintage-styled clothing for the mod/60’s scene “because we cater to people who already know what they want/like. We're not trying to sell a look or tell anyone what to wear. I think that makes our customers much more sophisticated and that's a nicer market to design for.”

The most popular item is “A very simple, basic beige dress with two black stripes across it, one vertically off-centered, and one horizontally. It’s actually one of my favorite pieces.” Jessika is, however, “surprised that its subtly translates so well via a small picture up on a website!”
Dada Die Brüke isn’t just for ‘the ladies’. There is an excellent collection for men, including, of course, shirts and trousers, but also ties – even one made from dogtooth! Jessika and Estelle “collect ideas from guys whose style and opinions we trust as well as design what we like to see guys wear. We pay attention to things people ask after and try to cater to both those whose tastes are based in the early 60’s through to those who prefer the late 60s. We expect to add more designs in both of these extremes, and a lot in between. Currently our men’s line is rather basic.” But perhaps one of the few places in the world where you can buy a narrow dogtooth tie!

Jessika’s favourite item, out of the many she’s made is “Probably any one of my wool A-line coats. I use very nice fabrics, and have perfected the cut, fit, and length so that – in my opinion! – it's the 'perfect' coat cut.” Unfortunately, we won’t be able to get our hands on one, as, though Jessika would “love to sell these, it requires so much hand work and tailoring to get it that way, that the time and materials would add up to a rather high priced garment! I have done them in every solid color and in single and double-breasted styles with various collars and details such as extra-small rounded collars, or large white buttons, bound button-holes and circle cut-out pockets. One particular coat I love is in a large-scale dogstooth which I think is very striking. I always add a back belt as well.”

A useful style tip on which to end this installment of the interview. Now check back the second part!

© Helen Barrell 2002 - 2015
[Published 15 January 2002]
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About the author

Based in Birmingham, Helen edited Dansette fanzine for 4 years and wrote articles for other publications and websites. She is an avid collector of shoes and 50's and 60's cocktail curiosities. She attempts to mention Audrey Hepburn in every article she writes and bases her image on Anna Karina. She also has very big feet.

Helen wishes she could be a properly published novelist, having written her mod-spy novella 'Lament for a Trapped Spy' at 19. She's now working on a novel about a jazz singer, called 'The Mad Tin Rats', influenced by the art of Josh 'Shag' Agle.

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The Fantabulous World of Jessika Madison and Dada Die Brucke Clothing - Interview Part 2

Part two of Helen Barrell's interview with Jessika "Dada Die Brucke" Madison. How does a mod survive extremes of temperature? How can a girl get a good bouffant? What's a girl to do about make-up? Gosh, life is hard! Read on...
KaseyTERRELLjan 26 2012 10:13AM
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Mark Kennedyjan 20 2002 12:42AM
Just goes to show... there is no reason for anybody dressing poorly. Unless of course I've forgotten to fetch a suitcase to a do, which just happens to be full of Dadadie Brucke creations. Dadadie Brucke keeps the image fresh, the ideas sharp and the illusion more illusive. It's criminal that this didn't happen at a more opportune time, but I will be less forgiving to anyone I encounter in an ill-fitting off the peg excuse for a shirt in the future. What do you want people... a written invite to look good? Well Helen has just written it for you.
Dualsynchronicjan 16 2002 6:37PM
Fantastic article. Lately I've been quite disappointed at the selections of original 60's peices, and have been looking to have a couple 2 or 3 peice outfits made locally. Now I don't want to have anyone BUT Dada Die stitch them for me. Cheers!
jenn robbinsjan 16 2002 4:31AM
excellent article! i've been to the dada die site before and am always interested in buying pieces! keep up the good work girls!
David Steeljan 16 2002 12:04AM
Nice piece, Helen! Having had Jessika and Estelle make me up items such as belts and ties in the past, I can certainly vouch for their work - spot-on each time. One question I'd like to ask: When will Dadadie Brucke be introducing matching beige suede tassled jacket and stetson hat to their male range of clothing? :-)

Cheers! David.
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