In secondary school Meme was so shy that she could barely interact with a shopkeeper, but now she couldn’t be more self-assured, loud and out there if she tried. She explains how she took control of her life and started the one-woman online fashion brand worn by Princess Nokia and IAMDDB

“My name is Meme Gold and that’s official,” Meme says with a smile. She refuses to divulge her birth name, as we sit sipping a steaming brew in her small studio on Ducie Street, located in the inner-city district of Ancoats, Manchester.

I quite like to imagine that she leapt out of the womb fully branded, as the entertaining, diamanté adorned ‘Meme Gold’ that I see marketed on Instagram. She is the brand and the brand is her. She isn’t as intimidating as her online persona would suggest, she is much sweeter and fresh faced, without her usual sculpting makeup, which she tells me can take her up to two hours to put together, a talent she perfected whilst working on the Selfridges shop floor, idly watching YouTube tutorials on a store iPad.

She is dressed in a casual (slightly grubby), terracotta ‘Meme Gold’ branded tracksuit combo, hair hidden beneath her (slightly lopsided) signature paisley bandana. We’ve both just swapped compliments over our gaudy acrylic nails and I feel instantly at ease – the talons, however impractical, are always the perfect ice breaker. She looks like a true artist at work, but apologises for her scruffy appearance.

Before I take a seat, I look out of the window as the sun begins to set on the bleak Ancoats skyline of terraced houses and old textile mills. The district was home to some of the largest mills in the city, but the area fell into ruin after the slump of the cotton industry, only recently finding a new lease of life as a centre for low-budget creatives. NTS radio has its Manchester studio around the corner, of which Meme was given her own monthly slot on less than a year ago.

“Most of the time I don’t plan what I play,” she says. “I keep lists and group songs constantly, but it depends on how I feel on the day. I might wake up and feel like I’m just going to play Brazilian music today.”

It is in this snug studio, also shared with two friends, that this one-woman operation takes place, creating custom clothes that are worn by the most popular women in the music scene, from Radio 1’s Mayajama to hip-hop artist Princess Nokia, Mabel, and Mancunian “urban jazz” singer IAMDDB – arguably the most exciting artist of 2018.

IAMDDB has worn Meme Gold almost exclusively in every music video released so far, and online comments from fans regularly praise the genius styling, also Meme. Meme explains that after meeting through the music scene in Manchester, IAMDDB featured in her very first carnival collection and has been a regular collaborator ever since.“When we’re together our work energy is just nuts, we feed off each other,” Meme laughs. Similarities can definitely be drawn from their loud and infectious energy, intimidating at times, self-assured to an enviable degree.

Designer, NTS radio host, DJ – Meme Gold likes to keep her options open and although she adamantly refuses the title of stylist, it is her styling of IAMDDB (in her own designs) that landed her the job with Princess Nokia late last year. After seeing Meme’s name in the styling credits on a video, management offered her the job to style Princess Nokia at the Liverpool Music Week gig. Although Meme gathered as many Mancunian brands as she could, because “if you’re gonna be in the North, I’m gonna bring you the North”, it was Meme’s own paisley bandana-style three-piece look that Nokia chose immediately.

She says how incredible it was to meet Princess Nokia, but adds, “The reason why that story is so important to me is not because of who she is, but because literally the day before I’d got suspended from work. Then I woke up to that job and two others, I just thought WHAT THE FUCCCCK,” she screams, “what is life!”

@IAMDDB in ‘Pause’ music video
Styling Meme Gold, clothes Meme Gold,
Photography Colors Berlin

Princess Nokia at Liverpool Music Festival 2017
Styling Meme Gold, clothes Meme Gold,
photography Kevin Barret

Most jobs that have involved rules not made up by Meme herself just haven’t quite suited her (she has been fired from almost all her past retail jobs) and neither did university, which she quit in second year.

‘It was literally like you design like this then and go work for Tesco or Puma, some big corporation,” she said exasperatedly, discussing her time on the Fashion, Design and Technology course at Manchester Metropolitan University.

“I just didn’t want to think a year ahead and do the season thing, I didn’t want to look at some book – I just wanted to make stuff and hope people buy it.” It wasn’t until Meme struck out as her own boss that things began to fall into place.

She didn’t begin her business straight after leaving university, however. She was forced to move back home to London, but returned six months later with “a suitcase, nowhere to live and no job” but describes feeling instantly happier. Manchester is home for Meme and the slight northern twang she’s picked up could fool most into thinking she’s a true native. She began working at Topshop, but was soon fired and it was then that she began making clothes. “At first it was just to pass the time, there was no intention to sell, but friends started to say, ‘This is really cool, can I buy one?’ and it spiralled from there.”

The cotton paisley sweatpants with mesh faux boxer lining and matching lace-up halter are everyone’s noughties dream, paired with the diamanté studded ‘bling-dana’ (all painstakingly hand glued) and are from her latest ‘TLC’ collection. Technically complex, it is not, nor does it claim to be, but a winner with audiences both young and old? Definitely.

Meme’s goal is not to create a brand that will lie lifeless on desolate Mount Street, but rather one that is fun, young, affordable and can be made to fit. She wants no excuses for the big boobied girls to not be showing off their bods in her skimpy designs, as part her ideology is centred around the ridiculousness of there being a handful of sizes available for the hundreds of body shapes a woman can have.

“If someone emails me and says ‘I’ve got massive tits’, I just get them to send me a picture and make it to fit. Every garment can be for every body shape!” she exclaims. “Boys, girls, white, black, skinny, little, young, old, I’ve had all types of clientele and some of them buy the same things,” she says. “I guess the ethos of it is literally what I’m always saying, ‘everything for everyone’, whether you’re young and cool, or my 50-year-old mum. Whatever shape, you should be able to buy it and it should be able to fit you.”

The custom fit and opportunity to personalise almost any item with a stitched or diamanté’d word of your choice, reels in the Gen Z followers, for whom custom is king, and adds a USP that goes beyond just the overdone option of adding simply your own initials. “It’s fun for me, because I get to see the weird things that people come up with, which obviously has no context to me,” she laughs. “Someone ordered two jumpers and she wanted one to have a little speed boat that said, ‘Nippy Minaj’, then the other to have love hearts with ‘Big Phil Wiley’, I mean… I’m not even going to ask.”

Considering it is all hand embroidered and the length of time it takes to adorn items in diamantés, her price point is extremely accessible. “I always get told off by friends that my prices are too low because I make it myself, but a lot of the messages I get, or people I meet, are young girls and most young girls don’t have £100 to spend. I feel like it’s not fair to show them this cool world, my clothes on people they admire, if they can’t afford it.” Meme’s most expensive item is the paisley sweatpants at £80, and she makes sure to provide a selection of lower value tops and hoodies, starting at £30.

There is nothing conventional about Meme Gold, however, and her design process makes no exception. “When I first started I never used patterns, and even now I don’t make mood boards or anything like that I literally just have an idea and then I make it,” she explains. “That’s why in a way I don’t like being called a designer because its constrictive, everything I do is done in the unconventional way.” Meme occasionally sketches, but mostly visualises collections in her head, “Probably my patterns make no sense to anyone but myself but that’s going to have to change soon as I’m getting a manufacturer.”

Meme has recently completed a deal with a local manufacturer who will produce part of the stock, making her one step closer to her dream of opening a huge Meme Gold factory, which I don’t doubt would draw other creative businesses to the city in an instant, but she is wary to make sure she keeps the option for custom sizing. “It’s hard, because it will cost more to keep it, but I just don’t want to take that away from people.” She enjoys receiving DM’s from the girls wanting to buy her clothes, the interaction with the consumer is part of the experience – it’s not all about sectioning herself off in a design studio and slaving away. Seeing her clothes worn by customers on social media is what makes it worth it.

Being a designer hasn’t always been Meme’s long-life dream, however. She categorises herself as “garmsdealer” on Instagram, and feels that boxing yourself into one area nowadays can be very dangerous. “People’s attention spans are this small,” she says gesticulating with her neon claws, “you have to constantly try and rebrand yourself. I’ve got to a point now where I’m like I can and I will do anything that I want to do, which I’ve never felt before – I’d love to be DJ Meme Gold, presenter Meme Gold, whatever.”

Her self-belief is admirable, and the only attribute that lets on she isn’t in her early twenties. She easily looks 21, but her confident aura and poise suggests otherwise. She assures me that she hasn’t always been like this but that’s hard to imagine from the woman who was offered a regular radio show on NTS Manchester solely due to her ability to “never shut her mouth.” She tells me that after thinking she was “the shit” as a younger child and being “probably the most annoying kid you’ve ever met in your whole life”, going to secondary school knocked her down one too many pegs, to the extent that she couldn’t interact with a shop assistant if she needed help, or speak to someone on the phone. This is all too relatable for many of us, but it couldn’t seem further from who Meme is now.

“I always say this to people and they don’t believe me, but I went through a really horrible period from 13 to 16 where I was disgustingly shy. I didn’t talk, but everyone thought I was rude because of my resting bitch face.” She explained that the change within came only when she became aware of how co-dependent she had become with her close friend at university. She decided enough was enough, moved in with strangers and decided to start saying yes to every opportunity that came her way.

“I started going to art galleries and launches by myself, and I realised that conversation you have with yourself beforehand, that niggling self-doubt that says, ‘Oh god no, what if this happens?’ or ‘You can’t do this!’ is always wrong. Everything I’ve done where I’ve said it’s going to be shit, I’ve never been proved right. So now, obviously I still have those thoughts, that conversation and fear, but I also know not to listen, so I just do it.”

Listening to Meme discuss her very simple philosophy, which we know is harder to put into practise than it seems, makes you want to grab life by the horns. I feel like I’ve accidentally taken part in a TED Talk, and as we prepare the studio for her profile photo she absentmindedly imparts another pearl of wisdom.

“When people from across the world get so excited over you and your clothes, sometimes you think, it’s just me, but you have to stop thinking like that. Yesterday for example,” she says, referring to a panel she was on during International Women’s Day, “so many girls during the talk would apologise for things they said or their opinions, and I always say to those people, don’t apologise because you’ve said it and you mean it. My mum does it a lot and it’s like, stop weakening yourself.”

I agree completely, but admit that I am one of those constant apologisers and she laughs. “I don’t say sorry unless I physically hurt you or am genuinely wrong. I’d never apologise for my actual opinions.”

I leave the studio with a fire ignited inside of me, excited to try out this whole no apology thing, and that is the beauty of what Meme Gold has created. A brand that incites confidence, and allows you to channel Meme’s if you don’t yet have enough of your own. As I grow older, moments in which I’m crippled with self-doubt are becoming more infrequent, and however far down this journey you personally are, having a bit of Meme Gold in your life can’t hurt. There is a Meme Gold universe, and it’s easy to be sucked in.


Galchester Issue One 