Turning Adversity into Strength: Madeleine’s Journey From Losing Her Hearing to Creating a State-of-the-Art Vintage Store Fantasy

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“My has store developed into this fabulous fantasy world because I always believed in the limitless possibilities of dreaming with my son, Ricky, who was born deaf, and whom I continually told: You can be anything you want to be,” says single mom Madeleine Kirsh. As her leopard kaftan and bright red hair scream, Madeleine is a one-of-a-kind whose experiences of raising her deaf son and confronting her own progressive deafness lead to the decade-spanning Miami vintage store bar none, C. Madeleine’s.  “This is my passion,” states the impeccable curator, who can’t go anywhere without being asked about her signature glasses. “I built this store on my heart and passion. The day that goes away is the day I close up shop.” Read More

With the resoluteness of her Jackie O canary ensemble, Madeleine has faced hardships that’d make Whatever Happened to Baby Jane seem like a family comedy. From her high-school days of changing in the bushes outside of her house into the flower-power clothes of her choice, to the terrifying loss of her hearing over a period of 25 years, Madeleine has turned adversity into gold. When she was born, her mom left her in the hospital for ten days in order to make sure she that was perfect with all ten toes and fingers. After her own son was born deaf, the quiet warrior, whose backbone is equal to that of her don’t-fuck-with-me black Chanel business suit, never let her son witness her tears over his handicap — heading for the bathroom every time she cried.

Rearing her child “before closed-caption TV,” Madeleine, completely on her own, spent close to 24/7 trying to bring normalcy to their outsider, isolated lives: “I sat on the floor feeding and feeding him language. I was his best friend” On weekends, in order to survive, she planted the roots of her business and started to sell her grandma’s Great Depression glass at the flea market. “I got so popular that I started to sell jewelry out of my car, across from Saks to their employees,” Madeleine remembers. “I was in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The cops would come and tell me to move my car, so I would circle around the block and then come back.”

In the spirit of her own self-creation, Madeleine says, “When you walk into my store, you leave all the crap outside and you start to become the person that you want to be.” Her courageous vulnerability allows her to form such a deep connection with the stories behind the clothing that people bring her that she feels as if their previous owners have been reincarnated in her. Possessing senses sharper than a razor, the visually-explosive ecstasy of her store is Madeleine’s pot. “It’s been a real trip,” she reflects. “If I had to trade in all of my torments, then I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. I’d be a little robot, not Madeleine.”

xo,
Elisa & Lily

Shot, interviewed, and photographed by Elisa & Lily
Edited by Adaeze Elechi

Visit C. Madeleine’s website.
Follow her on Twitter: @CMadeleines
Follow her on Instagram: @cmadeleines

If Madeleine’s story inspires your story, then add some of her things to your closet!

 

  • carol

    OMG!! She is amazing!! Loved the interview!

  • TovaK

    Speechless. I love her and her shop is sublime. I think I’d need to spend a day in there. Thank you for introducing us to the amazing woman. ❤️

  • Talibah

    Now that was a wonder filled interview!! I love love love C. Madeleine! Elisa, when you told her that she was an amazing mother, that really meant so much to her and you could see how deeply it affected her being, she teared up and choked up at that point, and so did I, it was wonderful to behold. And Lily’s question brought it all into perspective, she would not change a thing, to change even one thing would alter everything and she is over the top fabulous. Her style and her sense of life, are one in the same. Now, I might have to take another cross country trip(don’t fly) just to visit her shop. Love this interview, bravo!

  • Jimmy Neda

    Thank you for the wonderful clip with Madeleine! It was very emotional.

  • Leonor Martinez

    Leonor M.
    Madeleine is amazing friend I am proud of her success in her life. She is very intelligent and brilliant woman in the world of fashion styles.I am hearing impaired and worked with her in artworks in the pass few years ago.She mean so much to me………..Very nice interview!!
    I love you Mady

  • Amy Doran

    deeply humbled. what a brave, intimate, and lovingly done interview. madeline’s story has changed me. thank you stylelikeu for not being afraid of going there. it is a gift.

  • Deborah G Berger

    Madeleine…is my oldest friend…we met at the Barbizon
    Hotel for woman in 1972….this is what I have to say about her
    accomplishments…. am so incredibly proud of you and in awe of you…I
    was there when Ricky was born…we go back further than that…what you
    have done is inspiring…as there are no limits…I am so proud to call
    you my friend..or my sister from another mother..and Ricky…well let’s
    just say I don’t want to be called a cougar…he is beyond
    fabulous…love you to the moon and back…Deborah…and yes style
    wise…I’m still the same….I know you’ve tried…but I’m ready
    now…as hopefully we will be moving to Florida

  • Chi Chi & the Greek

    The BEST interview ever. Madeline is an extremely successful vintage dealer, but her devotion to her son is what truly makes her my idol. Thank you,SLU for such a heartwarming interview.

  • Neil Davies

    Thank you…X

  • Vintage Loving Angie

    I am so inspired by this video. It is my dream to one day own a vintage clothing store.

  • Jayanti

    Beautiful & Inspiring Lady. Please post more of Madeleine’s videos.

  • Kerry Clarkson

    great!

  • FrancesM

    Inspiring.