book report | maripolarama

October 11, 2016 in good reads by editor

Known as the woman behind Madonna’s 80s look, there is more to Maripol than just rubber bracelets and rosary beads.

Artist-designer-director Maripol is most often recognized as the woman who helped craft the rebellious sex kitten image of a very young Madonna. By pairing cross necklaces and rubber bracelets with lace gloves and bare midriff, she helped redefine the way young women dressed, inspiring a million-and-one wannabes to wear their underwear as outerwear. But while those style cues are still reverberating today, there’s a lot more to Maripol’s story than just “Friend of Madonna”.

Maripol left France for NYC in 1976, where she landed a cush gig at New York outpost of iconic Italian brand, Fiorucci. Hired pretty much due to her unique DIY earrings, she was tapped as the brand’s first jewelry designer and then art director. The enterprising twenty-something became an active member of New York City’s LES art and music circuit, where she documented her friends and colleagues with her ubiquitous Polaroid camera. In 2005, these snaps were collected into a book called Maripolarama.

Flipping through the grainy faded photos that fill out Maripolarama, you get a real sense of why this brief period in NYC’s history is so endlessly romanticized: rents were cheap, creativity was king, and to be accepted, all you needed was to be doing something. Something cool. And it helped to have a distinctive look more befitting the Mudd Club than Studio 54. Some of the faces in Maripolarama were already famous, but many more were on the cusp of stardom and picking out the young soon-to-be’s is like a game of I Spy; Madonna, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Keith Haring, Naomi Campbell, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anna Sui. Look closely and you can see Maripol’s design work all over the pages, as friendly Polaroid subjects wear the rubber bangles and plastic fringe necklaces that were about to go mainstream. In 2010, she collaborated with Marc Jacobs, recreating some of those jewelry pieces for 80s revivalists to devour. Three decades on, she still lives in the SoHo loft space where so many DJ parties and artistic moments happened. We wonder what her rent is now.