“I burnt Nicole Scherzinger’s dress”: Sunderland graduate on working as a stylist for the stars

SUNDERLAND graduate and celebrity stylist Madeleine Bowden gave a masterclass to students at the University of Sunderland on her X Factor mishap, sewing pants on a singer live on stage, and touring the world with Jessie J.

STYLIST Madeleine Bowden grimaces as she recalls the time she burnt a pop star’s dress 20 minutes before going live on stage. The University of Sunderland Fashion Journalism Graduate was working as an assistant stylist on the X Factor when she accidentally burnt a hole in Nicole Scherzinger’s frock, just as the star was about to go on stage.

“There was a stain on Nicole’s dress,” she recalls. “After trying to get it out I was drying the dress with a hair dryer and burnt the dress 20 minutes before the live show started. I had to give her the option of re-styling it or wearing a different dress.

“She chose a different dress, and hair and make-up were so angry because their hours of work were specifically for the original outfit.”

Though she can laugh about it now, and Nicole forgave her, it stands out in Madeleine’s mind as one of the worst mishaps she’s encountered in her life as a freelance stylist. Another was having to sew up Jessie J’s pants live on stage after they split during an energetic dance routine. The celebrity stylist, who graduated from Sunderland’s BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism course 10 years ago, recalled her adventures in a Masterclass to current fashion students this month.

Liz Lamb, Senior Lecturer in Fashion Journalism, said: “Madeleine is such an inspiration for students and she’s a great example of someone who grasped every opportunity available to her while studying at the university. The fashion world is really competitive so it’s always fantastic to hear when one of our graduates has become successful after leaving university. Our current students loved hearing about Madeleine’s work as a celebrity stylist, especially her tales of being on tour with Jessie J and working with Nicole Scherzinger. She’s a real success story.”

Madeleine, who comes from Cramlington, Northumberland, told all about styling stars such as the Pussycat Dolls and Jessie J, and working for brands and publications including Superdrug, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.

While studying, the stylist teamed up with every creative person she could find and produced pictures in which she styled herself, and often even made her own outfits from anything she could find. Every opportunity that was available within the North East, Madeleine took advantage of. She also started her own fashion blog where she showcased her own work, including her writing and styling.

“There were times when I would walk into stores like John Lewis and talk myself into getting loaned loads of clothes,” she told fashion students. “If I couldn’t borrow clothes from stores and businesses, I made my own out of anything I could find. There’s one picture of me somewhere covered in bin bags.”

Prior to venturing into the career of a stylist, Maddie took on multiple internships in London at publications such as ELLE, InStyle and The Telegraph. Landing her first gig at ELLE took a lot of confidence, as Maddie recalls her experience meeting the editor at Newcastle Fashion Week: “I went up to her and asked if I could interview her. My hands were shaking, and I felt like I was asking some stupid questions. She told me that ELLE were running an internship scheme and said that I should sign up for it.

“I was given a time and date to start my internship. I was told to organise a freebie cupboard, and after three days of working on it my editor took loads off the shelf saying, ‘This is going to be given away, this is going to my house’. But after that, they kept me on for longer than the internship initially was, and I was there a year.”

Madeleine transitioned into celebrity styling when working as Nicole Scherzinger’s assistant stylist on The X Factor. However, it wasn’t until she joined Jessie J on her arena tour that she went from an assistant stylist to a stylist in her own right. This led to her becoming Jessie’s personal stylist for every event you could think of, including her time on The Voice, music videos, tours and red-carpet events.

With a strong portfolio of work, Madeleine then started to expand her styling work by working on campaigns and adverts for well-known commercial companies, such as John Freida, Arcadia, L’Oréal and New Look.

So, what advice would the 32-year-old give other fashion students hoping to follow a similar career?

“My ethos has always been to say yes to everything when you are starting out,” said Madeleine.

“If that means working for free or going right in at entry level, that’s fine, just do whatever it takes.

“You also have to be prepared to make it happen. After graduating, I knew I would have to move to London, I knew I would have to sleep on my sister’s sofa, I knew I would have to push hard to get where I wanted to go.

“Resilience is also important. Working in this industry is a bit like auditioning for a role. You get put forwards for jobs, sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t.

“I really enjoyed my time at the University, the academics were brilliant, and the facilities were exactly what I was looking for.”

Follow Madeleine on Instagram here to check out her work.

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