Passion for Fashion: Designs by Malyse

by Jennifer Hadley

From just talking to Madison Waldrop on the phone, one might mistake her for a mature adult. In reality, she is an ordinary 13-year-old girl who enjoys hanging out with friends, playing the piano and tennis. The only difference is that she is also a passionate fashion designer and has a company called Designs by Malyse, in which she designs evening gowns and wedding dresses.

While Madison was still a tween she realized she was interested in designing. “I’ve always enjoyed fashion from as far back as I can remember,” she said.

Along with her mother Christine, Madison took her designs to a family friend and fashion designer Annette Thurmon of Chaviano Couture. “We went to her and asked her if the designs were good enough to pursue,” Madison said. “And she said yes.” Annette Thurmon used one of Madison’s designs as inspiration for a dress in her own line that was featured in the New York WeddingChannel Couture Show.

Madison is the designer and principal of Designs by Malyse. Her mother is the president and coordinates all necessary operations such as the web and logo design, business cards and hiring a publicist and seamstresses. Madison is involved in all of the decisions made including the company set-up and attorney’s meetings. Her father, Mark, is 100 percent supportive and helpful in all areas. His business knowledge and strategy has been valuable to the success of the company and he is also the sole investor for Designs by Malyse.

Having a seamstress on hand is important for making a design come to life. “I start out with inspiration for any dress, choose my fabric, meet with my seamstress, do the base work, make a prototype, and then the dress is created,” Madison said. Even when the seamstress is putting the dress together, Madison is still involved and makes decisions along the way.

Madison is currently completing her first bridal line that will be revealed at the New York WeddingChannel Couture Show in October. “I haven’t selected the name of the collection yet, but it will definitely have an artistic flair to it,” she said.

Another evening wear collection created by Madison called “Naturally” will launch on August 25, in Madison’s hometown, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Madison said this collection was inspired by the natural things around her. “I get inspiration from all around,” she said. “Really anything can be used as inspiration, even a rock or water.”

Water was recently an inspiration for a dress Madison created for an auction meant to raise money for clean drinking water for children in Pakistan after the devastating floods. Madison completed the dress in only three days and together with other girls raised over $9,000. “The most rewarding moment so far was when I dropped the water dress off at the auction,” she said.  “It’s rewarding to know that it’s benefiting someone else in an amazing way.”

The Water dress raised a helpful amount at the auction. Madison’s other gowns have sold anywhere from $300 to $550. She sells some of her designs on her website, She is currently talking with a local boutique interested in carrying her designs.

So how does a 13-year-old keep up her grades, participate in after-school activities, make time for family and friends and design dresses? Madison’s mom, Christine, said that she’s always taught her time management skills from a young age. “We’ve always had a schedule,” Christine said. “I would also have to say the school she is going to has done an amazing job at teaching the students time management skills.”

It’s determination that fuels Madison to do it all. “I’m harder on myself,” she said. “I’m not going to let anything stop me from making good grades and still doing what I want to do. Sometimes that means I have to stay up a little extra late to study for a test, but it’s worth it.”

One slight hurdle along the way has been a negative reaction from some of Madison’s classmates. At first some didn’t believe her; some accused her of just wanting to get popular by saying she had a design company and some seemed to get a bit jealous. “It was only a few, but it is still a real part of when you choose to be who you are,” Madison said. “You have to be ready to handle all aspects of that – positive & negative.”

“I know who my true friends are,” Madison said. “It’s been very revealing. In some ways I was expecting a different response, but I guess it’s good to know who’s really there when you are in a time of need.”

When asked about her goals for the next five years, Madison said she is grateful for the success she has had so far, and isn’t sure what’s in store for her and Designs by Malyse. “Anything can happen it’s kind of scary,” she said. As for college she’s not making any permanent decisions yet, but she also has interests in history, debating and law.

Madison’s advice to tweens is follow your dreams. “Stay determined if it’s something you truly want,” she said. “Nothing can stop you no matter how people treat you. It’s never too early and never too late to do what you want to do.”

Madison’s Favorites:

Designer(s): Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and Lily Pulitzer

Personal style in one word: Modern-classic boldness

Fashion trend: I’m not a huge follower. I encourage other girls to do what they want.

Most treasured possession(s): Bible, wallet and phone

Song: “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Book: To Kill a Mocking Bird

Role model(s): My mom, my godmother, and my adopted grandmother