Every now and then, nostalgia finds a way of creeping up on us when we least expect it. It may come from a forgotten photo stuck between the pages of a high school novel, or a friendship bracelet lost in your junk drawer since you were 12. It’s these small, unexpected moments that have the power to plant a seed in your mind, a seed that eventually leads to cancel your afternoon plans and venture through the past.
It’s funny how something so simple, like a stringy friendship bracelet, offers a sense of security to a relationship, a sense of hope that a friendship could last forever. It makes me wonder why we ever stopped wearing them!
“I always made friendship bracelets when I was little,” said Melanie Cheung, designer and owner of Madge jewelry. “I wanted to make sort of a luxury one, more of a high-end one – [it’s] still that fun handmade thing, but it’s not just a string around your wrist.”
Cheung’s Peacehands collection of custom, hand-woven friendship bracelets has attracted some attention from the fashion world. After a year since she began creating the collection, Cheung’s bracelets were featured in LouLou magazine as one the editor’s top trendiest items of summer 2012. From earth tones with skulls to pastel shades with a chic touch of a gold chain, there is a design to suit any friend worthy of a Peacehands.
“I was at a cottage over the summer, making bracelets, and it was kind of when everyone started wearing friendship bracelets again,” said Cheung. “Then I thought, maybe I could start selling these and I had this idea for a fun packaging with the hand and everything. Now I just keep having more and more ideas that I want to add to the line.”
After graduating from Ryerson University in fashion design, Cheung moved to Montreal to snag a spot in the fashion scene. Her day job as a designer for Mark Edwards Apparel Inc. allows her to explore fashion blogs and trend forecasting websites in search for inspiration not only for her garment designs, but her jewelry collection as well.
Although Cheung always had the intention of moving back to Toronto, she can’t seem to leave behind the sense of community and support she feels from Montreal’s fashion scene. Since the launch of Madge in November 2011, Cheung has embraced the various opportunities this city offers to local designers such as Puces Pop and Smart Design Mart.
“I’ve had a pretty great response so far, so it’s definitely encouraging me to keep it going,” said Cheung.
With such an appreciation for the sentimental value of a piece of jewelry, it seemed perfectly fitting for Cheung to pick the name Madge for her line. Aside from using the same name for her graduating collection, Cheung added a personal touch to her line with her grandmother’s nickname.
“She was always a fashionable, stylish lady, and she was always my inspiration for going into fashion,” said Cheung. “And I thought it also sounded kind of quirky; a quick, snappy name that went with the aesthetics of the jewelry.”
In an effort to be more hands-on in her designs, Cheung’s ambition to improve on her material led her to broaden her knowledge of jewelry making. Her courses at the Visual Arts Centre in Westmount taught her the fundamentals and sparked an interest in metal.
“I think it’s kind of an art in itself, it’s like sculpture,” said Cheung. “In a way, it’s like fashion. It’s always something that I’ve loved to design, but I kind of feel like I could be a little more creative with metal.”
With her newfound skill, Cheung took on the challenge of designing a ring collection, the Lost Ones. This newest addition to Madge offers a variety of sterling silver and gold plated brass rings. While some are more bold and chunky, others are skinny, classic, and can be worn as a single or layered.
Inspired by the music festival scene, Cheung designs for someone who is fashion forward and appreciates good quality material and design. Her Lost Ones collection is the perfect balance between classic and ultrachic — they are statement pieces and conversation starters without being completely over the top.
“I think I try not to be overly trendy because I want them to be wearing it as their everyday piece, all the time, and not like a seasonal type thing,” said Cheung. “So I think of someone who is aware of fashion trends and very into music and culture, but is more of a classic.”
What’s interesting about Cheung, aside from her humble attitude towards her talent, is her goal to share her success with others. A portion of the profits of every Peacehands bracelet she sells goes to The Shift, a Toronto-based project organized by a friend of hers. The Shift is an organization that helps empower female entrepreneurs across Canada and abroad.
Loving the idea of collaborating with a charity, Cheung is trying to find a way to be more involved rather than simply donating. Inspired by TOMS, Cheung hopes to find a way to have a direct impact, to show consumers where their purchase is going and how it’s influencing change.
“I mean I love fashion, high fashion, but I’ve always had a sort of love/hate relationship with fashion where it’s just so consumer-driven and wasteful,” said Cheung. “So I at least want to somehow feel good about what I’m doing and give back in a certain way.”
Peacehands bracelets are roughly $45, and Lost Ones rings range from $45 to $125. For more information on purchasing Madge jewelry, check out www.madgemelaniecheung.com