Designing woman
Living Word Lutheran graduate ascending in fashion design industry

By Callie Gay - For Conley News Service

July 31, 2018

Madalyn Manzeck, a Living Word Lutheran graduate, in her office at
Madalyn Joy Designs in Port Washington.
Callie Gay/For Conley News Service

PORT WASHINGTON — When Madalyn Manzeck was in high school at Living Word Lutheran in Jackson, she had dreams of going to Harvard and one day becoming a cardiac surgeon, but that was before she decided to take up sewing so she could learn how to make her own prom dress.

“My instructor had gone through design school,” Manzeck said. “She was the one who told me, ‘If this is your passion, and you really want to pursue it full time, you can.’” That was the moment it clicked for her, and she never looked back.

The 24-year-old founder, owner and creative director of Madalyn Joy Designs grew up in Ozaukee County and, following her passion, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to intern with Global Brands Group in New York.

Her focus was on evening wear. She loved the long flowing gowns often seen on celebrities walking red carpets. But during her program in college, by chance she ordered a black lace fabric and knew immediately that it should be a floor-length robe. No one in her program had made lingerie before, so she checked with her professors to make sure it was all right, then enthusiastically began.

During her critique, all of her peers told her that she’d found her calling, and designing lingerie was what her focus should be on. She thought about the fabrics she loved most, and knew that they were right.

“It’s funny,” she said. “The girl who hated wearing bras growing up ended up being a lingerie designer.”

Madalyn Manzeck measures a piece of fabric at her business, Madalyn Joy Designs, in Port Washington.
Callie Gay/For Conley News Service

Coming home, starting business

When she graduated in 2016 with high honors, she didn’t know what would come next. With no job lined up, and no desire to work in corporate fashion, Madalyn came home and started her one-woman luxury lingerie business without meaning to.

“I didn’t really know it was a business at the time,” she said. “I just did it as a hobby to make some money here and there and it ended up growing enough to be a full-time business.”

Being in Port Washington, where she spent so much time growing up, felt right. She had her family and her boyfriend, Ben, and soon connected with members of the local design community, and found in them support unique to the Midwest.

“There’s no real competition, we’re all so niche,” she said. “We chat about being stressed out or about not getting a collection done on time. It makes it easier having friends that are in the same boat.”

Her studio space sits right on the marina in downtown Port Washington, where Madalyn meets with clients from all over the state, one on one. She shows them her garment rack full of samples of robes, bras, bodysuits and other lingerie, and helps them find what they’re looking for. She measures them and makes each piece to the exact specifications of her client.

“Bespoke isn’t something a lot of people are familiar with,” Manzeck said, describing the custom-made clothing. “But what’s great about it is that it’s made for you. If you have a small bust and wider hips I can accommodate it to fit you and make it look flattering on your body.”

One of Manzeck’s main focuses is on body positivity and helping women feel confident and gorgeous in their handmade lingerie.

“No matter how much one woman diets and tries to be thin, we naturally have different shapes,” she said. “I think it’s important to realize that, and find garments that fit you, rather than you trying to fit into garments.”