Creative Spotlight: Mari Giudicelli
Interviewed by Alexa Wilson
After modeling and playing muse to downtown-cool labels such as Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Eckhaus Latta, Mari Giudicelli is branching out on her own with an eponymous shoe label. Offering classic, minimalist shapes with a focus on quality of materials, the Brazilian-born multi-hyphenate's designs are just as cool as she is.
Having grown up in Rio, how has your Brazilian culture influenced your creative process and designs?
Absolutely. I grew up surrounded by nature, and the artisan use of it. Woven textiles, baskets, roofs, beading, laces, feathers, wood, all those materials are very important to me. Brazil is a warm tropical country where people are very relaxed and casual. I believe this casualty is visible in my designs on how subdued and unfussy they are.
How has living and working in New York influenced your creative process and designs?
Living in NYC for the past 5.5 years taught me so much about professionalism. I interned for a few places before starting my own business, and that's where I learned the most about design development and sourcing. Modeling also helped, because I got to see some amazing well made garb and study how they were made and the materials, construction, quality etc. I got to experience different sides of the industry and that's priceless. Another thing that really fascinates me is the amount of fashion related books you can find in the US. Also the museums, libraries, there are so many sources to explore.
How did you manage to juggle your time between being a student, designing, and modeling?
It was very hectic. I tried to explain my situation to professors but only a few cared. So my grades weren't the best, but who cares, I used school as a learning tool and creative studio more than anything. I'd attend classes and go back to the shop to make shoes. The hardest part was during fashion weeks. I'd have to run to shows in between classes, carrying materials and sketchbooks, and shoes and bottles of water, phone charger, makeup remover, bandaids, all the shit to do both things. And for some reason it always rained on the busiest days. But I did it, and what I've learned from all of it is to always be nice, generous and on time.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I'm highly inspired by home. But also by people. People I see on the street. Old people. Movies, paintings, books. Vintage garments and footwear.
You initially studied garment design at FIT, why did you change your focus to specializing in footwear?
I first studied graphic design back home in Rio. Didn't like it at all. Then I had the opportunity to move to NY to study at Parsons. I did one year of fashion studies and decided to do more. That's when I applied for FIT. I was making jackets and gowns, and found out about the footwear program. I was into leather work, so it was a perfect transition. I love manipulating leather, so shoes were a perfect medium for me to explore. I am very fascinated by the sculptural aspect of it, and usually start working with creating shapes rather than sketching.
What was your motivation to launch your line?
When I graduated, like everybody else I believe, I felt lost with the overwhelming feeling of freedom and free time. I needed to find something to do next, a new challenge, and I wanted to get my designs out there. So I decided to go for it, with the feeling of it's now or never. You just have to believe in what you do and do it.
When and how did you start modeling?
I started modeling when a photographer asked to shoot me on my first year in the city. We shot an editorial for an e-commerce based in NY, and after that people started reaching out.
What was your experience working with Maryam Nassir Zadeh?
Maryam taught me a lot about balancing professional and personal life. She has a lot going on and it's impressive how she manages it all. I run the business by myself, from designing, to production, sales, marketing, PR, web, so it gets overwhelming. I never stop working. For example, sometimes I get myself thinking about work in a party, thinking about going home to do this or that, but I have to control myself and say listen, have fun for a few hours, then you do it. It's annoying! I am still learning. I practice transcendental meditation and it's a very helpful tool.
What advice do you have for people hoping to start their own business?
Intern for as many places as you can and make friends. Meet people. Always be nice. Learn to hear no. Try again. Believe in your vision, and stick to it. Ask for help.
What three words would you use to describe your style?
Utilitarian, unobtrusive, holistic.
What would be your ideal job if you weren't in fashion?