New Leaf

09.13.12

Christopher Ciccone, Madonna’s Brother, Debuts a Shoe Line

Christopher Ciccone launches a footwear line in London this week. He talks to Isabel Wilkinson about his transition into fashion, his rumored estrangement from his sister—and grappling with his own ‘legitimacy factor.’

Christopher Ciccone wants this article to begin with his name. And he wants it to be about his new shoe line, Ciccone Collection, which makes its debut during London Fashion Week on Friday.

But the reason he wants this so badly is because he knows this article—like others that have been written about him in the past—won’t be just about him. That’s because he’s Madonna’s brother and has lived with her specter hanging constantly over his head.

“Look, if I can get someone to start an article or interview with my name—one person, that would make me happy,” he tells The Daily Beast by phone. “But either way, it is a fact and it’s not a problem for me. I can’t control the world.”

Ciccone, who is 51, had a long career as Madonna’s backup dancer and a music video director. He has hovered around his sister’s social circle for years, as her closest friend, collaborator—even sidekick. That is, until he published a dishy tell-all in 2008, Life With My Sister Madonna, which painted her in a brutal and unflattering light. (He has claimed that he doesn’t regret writing it.) Although there are claims that the brother and sister have since been estranged, Ciccone says that now they have a “strictly brother-sister relationship.”

In February, there came a bolt from the blue: a Slovakian company called Novesta approached Ciccone and offered to pay for him to launch a brand. “I was just like, ‘OK, you guys know I’m not a footwear designer, right?” Ciccone says. “And the guy said, ‘I’m not looking for a footwear designer. I’m looking for an artist.’” The collection will launch with a line of shoes for men, women, and children, and will expand into clothing, accessories, and home goods. “It will become a lifestyle brand,” Ciccone says. “Eventually our own hotel. I have much bigger plans for it.”

Ciccone says he wants “the people in the fashion world who matter to see me as a footwear designer and not, for example, as Madonna’s brother fucking around.”

Ciccone never really saw himself as a shoe designer—and he didn’t really know where to begin, he says. He sought advice from longtime pal and Madonna collaborator Jean Paul Gaultier. He looked to art history for inspiration with the line, drawing upon a Georgia O’Keeffe motif for the design of the logo. He will introduce a series of 3-D rain boots for women, with colored layers cut out to reveal the ones beneath. For men, he plays with classical wingtip shoes. Price points are described as accessible.

Ciccone seems to be embarking on this venture with a certain unease about the way he will be perceived. He admits concern about his “legitimacy factor,” claiming that he wants to “get the general public—more than the general public, but the people in the fashion world who matter—to see me as a footwear designer and not, for example, as Madonna’s brother fucking around. I’m not Kim Kardashian putting out a perfume.” But proving himself may only come with time.

For now, it’s about releasing the collection into the world—and making it stick. “I’m nervous, I’m excited,” he says. “I’m preparing myself to be exposed.” He laughs. “And I’m hoping that people will be gentle.”