Posted by: Roy Wilbur
It’s challenging to be a fashion designer, but imagine working as a nurse five nights a week at the same time.
Fashion Designer Madelange Laroche somehow makes it all work.
“The worst day is Wednesday,” she said. “I have class at Moore from 12:30 pm to 6:30 pm, I get home by 7:15, shower, eat something, leave the house by 8:30 pm” for her nursing job, “and be back home around 8 in the morning,” she said. “Then I eat something if I have it ready, do a bit of wash and drive to the subway to go to class.”
Madelange works overnights Wednesdays and Thursdays as a personal care assistant. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, she works as a licensed practical nurse at Foulkeways at Gwynedd in Montgomery County, managing certified nursing assistants on a floor with 65 residents.
“I am always looking forward to that 15-minute sleep on the train,” she said. “I never miss my stop.”
Madelange was 7 years old in 1988 when her mother, Lucie, left her, her sister and two brothers in Haiti to go to work in the United States. Lucie was able to bring Madelange and her siblings to Florida in 2001. Madelange moved to the Philadelphia area in 2008. She is a caretaker for her 33-year-old brother, Roberto, who is developmentally delayed, at their home in Elkins Park.
“People ask me how I have the energy,” she laughed. “I still cannot answer. I am built in a different way.”
Madelange was interested in fashion even as a child, but she says “fashion” schools in Haiti were really sewing schools.
“It’s for people to have a skill to move on in life,” she said. “It’s not something parents will embrace willingly when you say you are going to sewing school.”
While she was living in Florida, Madelange attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, but only for a year. Her English wasn’t very good, and she had to drop out.
“That’s when I found myself in nursing,” she said. She received her LPN license from Suffolk Boces School of Nursing on Long Island in 2007.
While studying part time for her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Manor College in spring 2010, Madelange still had the itch for fashion.
“I told my advisor I wanted to transfer to go to fashion school,” she said. “She asked where I wanted to go, and I said I didn’t know. A student was nearby, and she said ‘Why don’t you go to Moore? Do you remember the Project Runway winner (Dom Streater ’10)? She came from Moore.’”
Madelange called Moore that same day in November 2013, and transferred in spring 2014.
“And now that’s me at Moore,” she laughed.
Madelange’s dream is to have her own bridal salon. Her intricate wedding gowns are already winning accolades – she won the student showcase in season 10 of Atlantic City Fashion Week in February. She also won the Frank Agostino Critic Eveningwear Award for a silver jacket and woven-detail gold and silver dress she designed.
Madelange uses her mother’s maiden name, Laroche, because she feels it has more cachet.
“I changed it because I like it much better as a fashion designer, like Guy Laroche, the designer in Paris,” she said.
As she prepares to graduate, Madelange reflects on her time here at Moore.
“The faculty, the teachers are like another family,” she said. “You can actually talk to a teacher who will listen to you and help you out.”
Even if she hits it big as a designer, she doesn’t want to give up taking care of people.
“I still want to do it, maybe once a month, as a volunteer nurse,” she said. “I like helping out.”
For now, a comfy chair to nap in and a coffee pot in the 4th floor fashion studio help her get through her long days.
“My brother gave me a sleeping bag,” she said, giggling.