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Featured Artist: Elena Bagne

"I really appreciate what Minneapolis has to offer in terms of art, in terms of people, in terms of experiences, in terms of acceptance, all that."

Elena Bagne (she/her) is an extremely talented creative who founded the clothing brand Minneapolis Made . I met Elena at a Trash Mag show back in 2018 and have followed her work ever since. We had a wonderful conversation in February this year and I am very excited to share her thoughts on being a young artist in the Midwest, the struggle of creating during a pandemic, and the future of Minneapolis Made with you all today!

Elena Bagne

DECADENT: Hello! As a person who was born and raised in the Twin Cities, I feel like Minneapolis is a good starting point for our conversation because you run Minneapolis Made and I want to hear what the city means to you. Why is the city a part of your brand?

MPLS MADE: Perfect. So when it comes to the beginning of Minneapolis Made. I was really hesitant about that name when I started my brand. I felt like it wasn't not creative enough, like it didn't have that edge.

I kind of fell into clothing when I graduated high school. I'd always like loved art. I was into photography. Film was actually my first love. But during my senior year, my friend Jenny was taking IB art and she had this assignment to make t-shirts and shit. And I was like, "Wait, I've always wanted to do that!" So I went to the art teacher asked if I could join. I started making a few hoodies for myself and a couple friends.

And I just wanted it to be like a basic Minneapolis-themed thing, right? I didn't have much thought behind it. At the time, I didn't think that was going to be the start of something at all.

My first design, the 1-800-MINNEAPOLISMADE with the phone, is still one of the best sellers. I'm honestly so sick of it.

DECADENT: But people aren't sick of it!

MPLS MADE: I guess not, yeah. So it kind of started there. After that first design, my friends kept pushing me to keep going with it. My friend finally sat me down and she was like, "You need to make an Instagram and start this". So I started it. I had like 20 some followers the first like three weeks.

To this day, I'm still hesitant on the name, but I've fallen more in love with it through other people's reactions to it.

DECADENT: Ooh! Tell me about that!

MPLS MADE: I'll get a message about it or something, and people are like, "We just love that you're putting it out for the city!" Because, you know, everyone talks about how overlooked MInneapolis is, which is true.

DECADENT: It's so true!

MPLS MADE: But Minneapolis is thriving, and it's thriving in so many different areas of the arts.

So that was a huge thing. People will stop me at places like Target: someone sees me in something Minneapolis-themed and they'll stop me and be like, "Wow, wow, wow! That's so cool! What is that?" So then, you know, I get to break it down and explain it to them. Through that I've been able to think about it. And I have just been like, "You know, this city has done a lot for me." I've created a lot of connections, I've grown in this city. I grew up in South Minneapolis by Lake Nokomis, went to Washburn.

I really appreciate what it has to offer in terms of art, in terms of people, in terms of experiences, in terms of acceptance, all that.

DECADENT: Absolutely.

MPLS MADE: It's been a journey for sure. But yeah, I mean, you know, the combination of all that, plus urban life, it's just fun.

DECADENT: Absolutely. And I mean, Minneapolis, definitely, found its place on the map this past summer. For such a tragic reason: the murder of George Floyd. I feel like that has like changed the way that Minneapolis thinks about itself. I hadn't been back to the Twin Cities for a while but being there over the summer of 2020 was such an important reminder of how strong the community can be when it comes to fighting for justice.

Do you feel like Minneapolis's self-consciousness is going to change or transform in any way? And how do Minneapolis artists factor into that?

MPLS MADE: I mean, I love the city. But at the same time, it can be extremely limiting in terms of the art world and what you have access to. And your networking can go far but only so far.

I have big plans personally, but also plans for Minneapolis Made. My goal is to eventually have Minneapolis Made become more of a collective. But I still have a lot to learn in the way of management and stuff. So I'm not trying to jump into that until I feel really grounded. There's a whole plethora of things besides just being creative that comes with running a business that I'm still learning a lot about.

DECADENT: Absolutely. And I'm sure that you know, even when you feel like you have figured it out, you're going to learn a lot along the way. But again, that's what the other people around us are for, I guess.

MPLS MADE: Exactly. Right.

DECADENT: So is your family a Minneapolis family?

MPLS MADE: Yeah. So I'm actually adopted from Russia. I came over here when I was little, but my mom is actually from Duluth, and my dad is from some very small town up in northern Minnesota called Clearbrook. They both moved down here when they were young, so they've been here forever.

I grew up here and going to a public high school really gave me a feel on things and a more worldly perspective on different people and how they live.

Yeah, Minneapolis is my city, I love this place. And I mean, like you talked about, it was incredible to see people come together. My goal is to make a collective of people in Minneapolis that focuses on young people and give them the resources to grow from that support system. I love fashion and clothes, but I want to do something bigger as well.

DECADENT: Very cool! I mean, I know you said you like photography, film, and other kinds of art. So do you feel like you want to explore some of those areas more?

MPLS MADE: Yeah, it's funny because all my dabbling in art as a younger person, in elementary school, middle school, high school, set me up perfectly to create a brand.

In middle school, I started to get into photography really heavy, and filmmaking, just like little vlogs on a GoPro. That actually set me up quite nicely, because now I shoot almost all my own stuff. And I design all my own stuff.

But at the end of the day, my first love has always been film and I can see myself trying to direct. I want to direct a film and be a part of that world. I have some experience in film, but I want more. And I just try like to try everything. I mean, there are so many cool things to do as an artist. I want to try and be someone who's just an overall creative.

DECADENT: I love that! How would you like define what it means for you to be a creative and build a creative community out of that?

MPLS MADE: Well, I think when I was like, 18. . . Actually, I think it was my junior year of high school, so I guess I was 16 or 17, I had just moved out of my parents's house and I kind of figured out that I like, wasn't going to go to college: I had zero interest in it because nothing about the college world seemed like it would fulfill me in any way. I was looking at the people around me in the world that had helped or influenced me and realized that the most inspiring figures for me were artists and politicians. I was at this crossroad. I don't have good study habits so I was a little bit more hesitant to go down the path of a heavy law degree, right? Besides, my first passion was art and always had been. I think I applied to one art school but they were like, "Yeah, it's $36,000 a year" or something and I was like, "I'm not doing that."

After I graduated high school, I finally realized I just needed to start. I think, a lot of the time, artists don't even want to start unless it's perfect. My friends were pushing me too. I give a lot of credit to them because they were like, "Just start this. Just try it."

So I tried it and I found a lot of success in it the first couple years, which surprised the shit out of me. And I loved I fell in love with it. It has pushed me in ways that I never would have expected. I was a super shy kid and didn't talk in high school, but now I'm networking and setting up shoots with people who, if I had seen them on social media, I would have thought like, way too cool for me, right?

The way that art is a pure reflection of everyone's reality is so intriguing. And the unique way that politics can still be a part of that is cool. Like, the politics of what people wear everyday. That is really interesting.

DECADENT: Was there like a moment where that clicked for you? Where you realized that political life comes into everyday life?

MPLS MADE: I don't know if there was a moment, it's more of like the culmination of little things, right? Little things that were either too ironic, or forced me to sit down and reflect, or things I never thought were possible. Things that seemed too complex to be possible, if that makes sense.

I think one of the big ones was for me was seeing how the oppression and pain people feel but also, at the same time, the joy and power people feel, all aligned with the different forms of art that exist in their lives. Like clothing, which is very like tactile, which you choose to put on your body every day as your own expression, right? Or what people post on their social media. Just the way people live every day: I started seeing that as art in itself.

I did have this one experience that I think was a moment for me in figuring out my own path and what I wanted. I had this film gig in New York. I was walking down the street, I go into a bodega and I order an egg and cheese sandwich. So I'm sitting down to eat and, this is why I love New York City, this guy walks in and he taps me on the shoulder and he's like, "Hey, do you do fashion?" (I had my whole outfit on.) And I was like, "Yeah, I do." And we just started talking about art and all these things. A couple minutes into the conversation, I find out he's an NYU professor of clothes and fashion.

I was sitting there and just spilled my guts to him basically for like, 45 minutes. I was like, "Am I doing this right? Blah blah blah." You know, I told him all my deepest fears and worries about running a business and being an artist. I asked if I should be going to school. And he was like, "Why would you go to school if you're already accomplishing the things you want to accomplish without it?"

Hearing that from a NYU professor of fashion blew my mind. That moment was huge, you know?

DECADENT: I love moments like that, when you meet someone spontaneously and they give you such valuable advice and inspiration. And as young artists, it is so special to find mentors like that. I feel like it is so special to find people you can just share all of your hopes and fears with. So you liked New York City? Do you think you could spend a longer period of time there?

MPLS MADE: Definitely. New York has been on my list since I was like 14 or 15. I don't know if I could live there forever. But I definitely want to get out there more. My biggest hoop is the financial reality.

DECADENT: Yeah, it's a pricey place to be. But tell me about the film thing you were doing in New York?

MPLS MAD: Yeah, I went out last year for New York Fashion Week. Around this time last year actually. I went with my friend, Nana, and my friend Irene, who are both into modelling. And they were going for castings and stuff. And they heard that I was going for a show and stuff. So we all just got an Airbnb together.

But the amount of networking that you can get done in one week there just blows my mind. I mean, that's the beauty of New York, but it also means there's a different caliber of competition.

DECADENT: You said you want to get more into film. What might that look like? What's something that you really want to create? What do you think your first big project might be?

MPLS MADE: I think for my first big project, I want to involve my brand. I want to expand my creative content and make a small film for each drop I do. That's a goal of mine over the next six months to a year. It'll challenge me to make more films. And I think it's a unique way to get your art out there in terms of fashion, rather than just doing a photoshoot. So I think that's my first set of goals.

And then, really down the road, I really want to jump into film more seriously. I want to get like, a stupid internship with a film company and just work my way up. Just sit on sets all day and watch how things work and get involved and network. And then eventually start directing films, you know, I don't care if they're small, low budget films, I just want to learn what it takes to direct films, because that's something still I struggle with: telling people what to do. I want to learn how to bring my creative ideas together and tell other people what to do and how to move and all that stuff. I have to learn a lot more about that.

DECADENT: Absolutely. I mean, stuff like that kind of just comes with life experience, too. I feel like when you need to do it, judging from the way that you've lived your creative life so far, you'll definitely get the job done. Is there like a story that you feel like you have to tell through film? Or is it like more like the medium of film that you feel you need to engage with?

MPLS MADE: You know, I think it's a little bit of both. I don't have like a pre-plotted, set story yet that I want to promote. But it's kind of always in the back of my mind: moments I'll have or, even like, things I'll see on TV, or when I'm walking around, experiencing life. I have this mental list where I keep track of things that make me think, "Oh, I love that aesthetic" or "That would have been amazing shot" or like, "That song would go perfectly with the scene like this." And like, you know, just stuff like that.

DECADENT: I love that. I love the idea of just walking around and seeing things here and there that inspire you, and saving them up for later. That's so cool.

MPLS MADE: Thank you.

DECADENT: Do you feel like that ever happens with your designs for Minneapolis Made? is there ever something you see that makes you think, "Oh, I gotta put this on a hoodie" or something?

MPLS MADE: Oh, absolutely. My ideas for stuff are super random and sporadic. Like my inspiration is random as hell so when I come across something, I'll make a note of it. I'm the type of person that, if I don't start something and do it immediately, I will probably struggle to continue.

It's been an evolution over time to push myself creatively and do new stuff. I was also kind of worried at the beginning about creating a brand because I was worried with how far I could take things in terms of appropriateness, if that makes sense. I'm trying to get comforable making the stuff that I really want to create.

Within the next few weeks here, I'll hopefully be dropping my new "Jaws of Life" design that I've been working on for a minute.

It's also a struggle with screen printing, because at the end of the day, you need space to do that and the expenses can add up. And it's just been a roller coaster with COVID.

DECADENT: I believe it. I mean, artists have been hit so hard by the pandemic and even though art is so, so critical for society's well-being, there's not enough aid for artists to do the things that really matter for people and communities. Hopefully, you know, more artists will be able to like come together over this. I feel like I've come across so many young artists recently who like, want to start something of a collective with whatever they've got going on. And I love to see it. I just I love the idea of artists gathering because they care about something and about each other. So I hope that that's also something that you're able to build around yourself.

MPLS MADE: So my plan, actually, is to start a house in the city for the summer where I will be able to use the basement as a studio but also use that space as an artist collective type space where people can come to vibe and work and create and collaborate.

And then eventually, once I have the funding and the following and the financial stability to move forward, to go back into a studio space.

DECADENT: Wow, a community for artists sounds so cool. And I don't know of any other artists who are doing something quite like that in the Twin Cities. Like, I feel like there should be more, way more people who run like houses like that. But I can't think of any!


DECADENT: Haha, but it seems like such a Twin Cities thing to do. Minnesotans love to come together and be with other people and share things.

MPLS MADE: Yeah, I know. I think the thing is that people get intimidated with a lot of big jumps. Like, even at the studio building I was at, I was easily the youngest person there by like 10 years. You know, there's just not a lot of space, especially for young folks, to come together and collaborate and work together. And it can be very supportive online and stuff. But it can also be really like, grab, grab, grab in person.

DECADENT: Wow, I love your spirit, Elena! You are so cool. I hope that this collective comes together because it sounds dope and I think it is exactly what young artists in the Twin Cities need. I was just gonna say, I discovered Minneapolis Made at a Trash Mag art show back in like 2018, I think.

MPLS MADE: If I think back, yeah I think I remember that show...didn't you get a gold skull hoodie?

DECADENT: Yeah, haha I'm actually wearing it right now!

Anyway, please keep me posted on anything you're up to with Minneapolis Made! You are such an inspiring creative force in the Minneapolis and Decadent Cosmos is SO lucky to have you!

MPLS MADE: Thank you! And same goes for you.

You can follow Minneapolis Made on Instagram here.



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