MadonnaTribe had the chance to meet the one and only Maripol, the famous art director, stylist, designer and photographer who was an instrumental presence and influence in the raising years of Madonna. With her unique sense of style and classy yet innovative creations she contributed in the making of the cultural myth Madonna is considered today.
Her original rubber bangles, cross related jewelery, fashion tops, were responsable of the wannabe phenomenon that catapulted Madonna into the eye of the world.
Today's fashion is still inspired by many of her ideas and fashion statements.
But Maripol is also a great photographer who has captured with her polaroids featuring the likes of Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Fab Five Freddy, Debbie Harry and Jean-Michel Basquiat, that unique New York's downtown scene of the Eighties.
We are proud to say that since 2005 we have become friends with this incredible and unstoppable woman who has finally agreed to let MadonnaTribe readers into her world of memories.
Hi Maripol, welcome to MadonnaTribe.
Madonna fans know the story of Madonna arriving to the Big
Apple with only 35 dollars in her pocket to find fame and
It was almost the same for you, isn't it?
Maripol: (laughing) yes it was. It happens
when you're young. When I came to New York I was 19 and I
came with my boyfriend, photographer Edo Bertoglio. We were
in love and I came here for three months, I was still in art
school (Beaux Arts). We had an apartment already set up because
my boyfriend came six month before and we set up already everything.
My parents would have not let me go otherwise. Madonna crossed
a few states and I had to cross the Atlantic. My parents wanted
to know who was the man I was going to live with, what I was
Edo Bertoglio did shoot those pictures for the cover of the
first album that were never used...
Maripol: Yes, I styled them and Debi Mazar did the
make up but they were rejected.
Then your career in America really started when
you became the art director at the Fiorucci fashion
store on 59th street.
I think it was in 1976 right?
was 1977 actually, I was doing stuff with them not only as
an art director but I was travelling around the world doing
collections for them. And that's also when I started my first
rubber jewellery collection in 1978. That was the first accesory
& jewellery line for Fiorucci.
MadonnaTribe: What did inspire you to do
this kind of job?
was just that I never never found anything I liked in styling
photography so I decided to make them. And also I was a young
girl and I was attracted by objects and I liked to use them
by taking away their original meaning. I would see something
I liked and I'd say: "that would be great as an earring".
MadonnaTribe: And you happened to
be in the New York scene when it was so alive...
MadonnaTribe: You were surrounded
by so many talents such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat
who are not among us anymore. How was living first hand that
era and what are the most beloved memories you have of that
time in New York?
We lived uptown for three years, from 1976 to
1979. We had an Harley Davidson and people always called us
the punk of downtown. We decided then to move downtown because
we needed a big space and we found a really rundown loft and
that was the beginning.
So we got the space and that was the best thing. We started
to have parties, happenings and also photography and my designs.
MadonnaTribe: How did you meet Madonna for
the first time? I think it was through your common friend
Martin Burgoyne, right?
Yes, Martin. I remember she came to my loft
because she wanted me to work on a new look for her but actually
I met her before that day, at the Roxy, as she said in a television
interview in Philadelphia. She said "I
met Maripol at the Roxy and as I was wearing a nice bra she
asked if I wanted to go on stage" and I thought she was
absolutely out of her mind.
that was your first impression of her?
My first impression... Five Fab Freddy wanted
me to get some girls on stage with him, he was rapping and
I saw her standing out so naturally cute!
talk about Madonna's Virgin look - how was it created?
She came to me and I just styled a bunch of
things on her. I was already making the rubber jewelery
and I was already making the crosses because of my love
for the punks. So it was perfect for her. And talking about
the clothes, Erika Bell used to make a lot of her clothes,
I would give her clothes from Fiorucci and it was a mix
of everything. And for "Like A Virgin" I was really
hired as her stylist, to be with Steven Meisel and work
on the look of the album cover.
MadonnaTribe: What memories do you have
of that Like A Virgin cover shoot with Steven Meisel?
I think it was done at the Saint Regis Hotel.
Yes it was uptown, at the Saint Regis. And
I remember everything. I remember the blue satin sheet she
used to cover herself with [the photo later used on the
european cover of the Material Girl single]. We did a bathroom
shoot and there are a lot of photos that we never used.
there any funny thing that happened during that photoshoot?
Yes, at the beginning there was an art director,
she wanted everything to be Madonna in black, a heavy rock
"Black Sabbath Madonna". And I didn't think that
it fitted very well. I said why don't we bring out the aura
of the "Like A Virgin" song, we can play with
that. And it was rebellious since who was going to believe
she was still a virgin!! She agreed and we got along very
MadonnaTribe: Did you design the "wedding
dress" for the "Like A Virgin" video?
Maripol: No, the veil was designed by my
friend Katsuko and the dress was one we bought. I was in
Japan doing a collection for Fiorucci and I missed the whole
shoot but she stayed "street Madonna" and used
some of my jewellery in the parts of the video on the bridges
MadonnaTribe: And then came the MTV Awards
Maripol: The idea of that performance came
from an kind of a vision I had. We used the exact dress
she is wearing on the album cover. We were right there.
It was incredible because nobody expected it to be so raunchy.
Cindy Lauper was there and was going to be star of the night
and then Madonna came out. During the performance the camera
shooting live, went right under her skirt and I remember
Freddy De Mann saying: "Never again will I let her being shot live".
But that "did it". I remember all the photographers
running to the press conference right after she went off!!!
Did you have the chance to see how that performance was re-created
on MTV with Britney and Christina twenty years later?
Maripol: Yes, she also had Lourdes on stage
with her wearing the same look.
MadonnaTribe: How did you came up with idea
of using rosaries and crosses as jewellery. I understand you
did that before "giving" it to Madonna.
Maripol: Yes, well for Madonna it was meant to be
something very spiritual. I was also raised catholic and Madonna
and I both rebelled to that. My mother didn't like it. It
was a way to say "why if I wear it on the ear it makes
me a lesser good catholic girl??".
MadonnaTribe: You already founded
your company Maripolitan Popular Object LTD that was also
in charge of the merchandise for the Virgin Tour. Did you
work on any of the tour outfits as well?
Maripol: No that was Marlene Steward. I went
to Los Angeles and Madonna was showing me the concepts and
the whole feel was very "Prince". Because of "Purple
Rain" just released I said to her "are you Prince
or are you Madonna?"
And what about the "wannabe" phenomenon?
We had a look-a-like contest at Macy's. Andy
Warhol and I were the judges. So much fun with hundreds of
kids, some of them pushed in by their mothers. At the end
we made sure that the girl that was more similar to Madonna
was the winner. But it was really fun. I have many letters
from the kids from back then. "To Madonna's jewelry designer".
you remember what was Andy Warhol thinking of Madonna?
We went to the wedding of Madonna to Sean
Penn together. He saw Madonna as a phenomenon and he loved
what about that "Boy Toy" belt? Did you design
No, everybody had those, but I did the one
for the cover of the Like A Virgin album.
It usually happens that Madonna takes something that
already exists but she has the power to make it become mainstream.
In a way it also happened with the bangles, you were already
producing them for other artists such as Grace Jones, but
they are still associated to that early image of Madonna...
Well yes and when Madonna did Desperately
Seeking Susan it was very good that she kept all the
jewellery and bangles for the part.
right, I was wondering if you worked on that movie as well
and wanted to ask about that...
No, but I remember she used to wear all those
antique stuff and I kept saying to her: "Just be yourself".
what about her look in Vision Quest?
I didn't work on that film either but she was
already decked with all my stuff for that. It's a beautiful
scene, I love the song (Crazy For You).
MadonnaTribe: And she just went on with
what you created for her...
Yes. Perfect, sexy, and modern.
MadonnaTribe: Do you have a favourite
piece of jewellery among the ones you created for Madonna
through the years?
I did her wedding present and I made one earing, it can be
seen in some pictures at the time. It's a little star that
I made with gold Chain and pearls. That was very special because
I only made one piece, it was only for her and I never made
it for anyone else.
MadonnaTribe: Many stars loved your jewellery
and still keep with care the pieces they have...
Maripol: Yes, I used to make mesh jewellery,
and Cher came to my loft. She saw things on Madonna that she
liked and she bought some of my stuff. Then years later I
was the stylist on of her video" walking in memphis"
and she took me to her closet, she opened it and there it
was. She still was keeping them there.
MadonnaTribe: Then in 1986 with True
Blue, Madonna decided to change her image. It was a complete
Maripol: Well I guess it was because she
was married to Sean and maybe he wanted her to be "Mrs
MadonnaTribe: What happened then?
Maripol: Oh, I bankrupted in 1987. I went
out of business because of everybody copying me from everywhere
in the planet.
How can you survive when millions of people start making their
most horrible supposedly rubber jewellery which was actually
made out of plastic?
Mine was made of genuine rubber. I had a factory in Hong Kong,
I had this dream to help the rubber industry in places like
Malaysia and helping poor people giving them work. Nobody
else had that dream. Pure greed!!
Now I know how it must feel to be Prada or others and see
your knock off everywhere!
MadonnaTribe: Let's talk about your more
recent book, which is a collection of Polaroids...
Maripol: I wanted to call the Book Maripolaroids
but there were problems so I called it Maripolarama. Published
by Powerhouse books, it's a nice little memory book without
pretention, it's very fashion. It will really show you that
the style of then hasn't really changed and it's very similar
to the style of today.
Are there some pictures in your new book that you
cherish more than others?
I love them all.
MadonnaTribe: What is that make a Polaroid
photo so special to you?
do have something special, it's just that they capture the
instant. That's it. You do it, you see it. You don't have
to go to the lab to have it developed. It was digital before
the digital. And now its over I am reclycling!!
MadonnaTribe: So you think digital is
something like the new Polaroid now?
unfortunately that is why Polaroid is going out of business,
digital world is invading.
MadonnaTribe: But you're still doing Polaroids...
I do large ones now 20 x 24". I want people to know
that I don't only dwell with the past, I have a life in
the present. I produce films, documentaries short and I
do photographies, and travel with them all around the world.
about documentaries you worked for more that 20 years on
the "Downtown 81" project...
Maripol: Edo Bertoglio directed it, Glenn
O'brien wrote it and I produced it in 1979 and it was shot
20 years passed before you could show it to audiences...
Maripol: Well that's because people who
should give us the money to complete it went bankrupt and
everything went dead. Before he died Jean Michel Basquiat
wanted to give me the money to finish it. He really wanted
the movie to be finished!
has also completed two new documentary films...
Maripol: Yes one is "Face Addict"
and it was selected by the Locarno film festival and touring
now in Europe. We went there and it was very well received
by the press. There were a lot of articles in the press
about it. The other one is about a famous old Bike racer
as Edo's love for motorcycle never stops!
yes the Locarno film festival is a very nice one indeed
and the audience is great. Speaking about the present are
you still in touch with Madonna? Did you meet her through
Maripol: Yes, we saw each other through
the years. She filmed me for Truth of Dare but
then it was cut but the cameraman said it was one of the
most truthful moments filmed. She always invites me to her
I saw one in Summer 2004 and the one last Sumer in Paris:
incredible. But since she now lives in England we are not
that close. I do miss her!
MadonnaTribe: Well she still loves New
York, she had a song on her Confessions On A Dance Floor
album called I Love New York...
Maripol: Well she's entitled to still love
MadonnaTribe: What are you working on right now?
Would you style Madonna again today?
Maripol: Well Madonna went a long way,
look at all the fashion statements she did. And I don't
do styling anymore today. Sometimes. I am a producer now.
I produced Edo's film "Face Addict" and "Downtown
81" took a lot of my time. I'm now writing some features
and fictions. I'm always busy. I also do a lot of photo
shows. We organized a great show in Paris called "FOB DOWNTOWN 81" at the Agnes B gallery, at rue Quincampoix
44. And it went to London, Tokio, LA now and Hong Kong.
MadonnaTribe: Do you have a feeling of
when did you love for photography start?
Maripol: Well it must run in the family.
I just discovered that my grandfather, who was in the army
during the first world war, was a photographer on the war.
I saw the pictures he took. My uncle was a doctor in the
second world war same he took genuine pictures of soldiers
, they were so sexy ! And my father always took film of
us, and photos. He had the Super8 camera and had always
the latest gadgets. My brother is a documentary producer.
MadonnaTribe: You spent a lot of time with
Madonna, do you have a fondest memory you would like to
share with our readers?
Maripol: I remember I invited Madonna to
Paris in 1983 for a party we did and she was very lonely
from Jellybean back then. Madonna was always truthful to
me about the sadness of the loss of her mom in her life
and the difficulties of wanting to be an actress and a singer
at the same time. And the horror of seeing all our friends
getting destroyed with drugs. And I told her if she wanted
to be great she had to be "straight". I said that
because I was involved with so many people using drugs all
the times. But she was always "straight", I never
saw her doing drugs. That's what makes people very successful,
when they have strenght of their own.
MadonnaTribe: Looking at the past and
then looking at the present in what way or aspect Maripol
is still the same?
Maripol: I am completely the same. I haven't
changed, more bitchy haha, learned from the toughest city
in the world I'm still living in that same loft of 1979.
The only difference is that I have a teenage boy Lino. Now
I see myself through my son. He is 17 years old and I have
the difficulty of raising him alone in New York, with all
the problems of the big city, and I can only show him the
danger because I lived the danger and because so many friends
of ours died. So I want to spend some times in good old
MadonnaTribe: What does you son say about
your past and present career?
Maripol: He doesn't understand why I'm
not richer (laughs). He sees everybody I worked with on
the top of the world and I'm still me. And he goes: "I
can't believe it mummy". And I say: "Don't worry
honey, you're the one who's gonna make it big".
Well I believe that the value in life is not only about
money. My kid was raised religious . He goes to a French
School, so he knows the good of being French as well as
American. He is an international kid and he speaks three
languages. He wants to be an actor or a director He is the
most incredible thing I have achieved so I don't care about
anything else. There is a picture of Madonna and my kid
in the book and that makes me so happy. She was there for
me and she was there for him a lot. He still has the bicycle
she gave him when he was 7 years old.
MadonnaTribe: Maripol thanks a lot for
sharing your past memories and you present project with
us. It was really a honour to have you here on MadonnaTribe.
Maripol: Thank you.
For more info about Maripol
and her amazing body of work, please visit
Maripolarama - Photographs
by Maripol , with
texts by Glenn O'Brien, Anna Sui, and Diego Cortez
is published by powerHouse
All images by Maripol used by permission - all rights reserved.
Like A Virgin album and single covers, photographs
by Steven Meisel, courtesy of Warner Music Group.
This interview © 2005-2007 Madonna Tribe.
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