Mari Giudicelli, Designer & Model
When you think downtown chic, it is impossible not to conjure the distinctive image of New York-based Brazilian Mari Giudicelli. One of the many reasons her image is so captivating is that this muse-to-many is much more than a pretty face. A dynamic and creative soul, Mari has progressively made a name for herself by splitting time between modeling, photography and design. Learning from the best and always staying kind and humble, Mari is a shining example of just how far authenticity goes. Lucky for us she is now focused on designing an eponymous line of shoes! Eclectic and covetable just like Mari, these furry mules, croc slides and architecturally heeled loafers are like nothing you've seen before. While in NYC we stopped by Mari's Chinatown showroom to chat about running a new business, avoiding disposable fashion, and finding inspiration in unexpected places. Read on for all that and peek into her Brooklyn routine. Enjoy!
LSG: "Empowering women through comfortable luxury footwear" is your new company's mission statement. Can you tell us why including the topic of empowerment is important to you personally and professionally?
I often see myself surrounded by ladies with many insecurities. I believe that every individual possesses natural beauty, no matter what, and that everyone has the power to achieve whatever they set their mind to. Walking that path while wearing comfy chic shoes is a plus!
LSG: Transitioning from model to shoe designer is a big, but very natural, step for someone of your talents and experience. Do you see yourself balancing both or going into design full time?
I love modeling for the brands I believe have solid, compelling visions. This past fashion week was a bit insane for me, managing my showroom, handling sales, PR and everything else for my brand while also walking three shows and shooting some lookbooks here and there. But I managed to do it and will try my best to keep doing it; I like being busy.
LSG: Where did you study fashion? How did you know footwear is where you wanted to specialize?
I studied at Parsons for a year, and at FIT for three. At Parsons, I learned how to create concise RTW collections. Then at FIT, I went deep into fashion history and garment construction. It's a very technical, hands-on school. After a year, I realized I loved working with leather and hand making samples, so I applied for the BFA in footwear and accessories.
LSG: Did you ever consider designing in-house for another brand? What inspired you to branch out independently and pioneer your own?
While still in school I interned for some houses here in NY and it was important. I learned so much about sourcing, production, teamwork, etc. But after graduating, I was just naturally inclined to get my vision out there. I could've gone the safe route, gotten a job as a designer somewhere, but I wanted to give this a shot while I still have the energy to do it.
LSG: Can you tell us about your design process?
I honestly design shoes that I'd like to wear and can't find. I'm obsessed and very inspired by vintage items, and most of the time they have one or two components, like the fabric or type of heel or toe, that I'd like a change to make it fresh and updated. And I also look for comfort. My hope is that my customers keep their shoes for a long time.
LSG: Materials obviously play a huge part in your line. Tell us about the process of sourcing them?
I work with a family owned factory back home in Brazil, and they helped me source the materials. They know this man who has had this exotic skin tannery for more than 30 years, and also the woodworkers who developed the heels. It makes sense to me to avoid having materials shipped from all over the world. Everything is locally sourced and sustainable.
LSG: Does intuition play a part in your design process? Do you experience a gut feeling when something "works" or doesn't?
Absolutely. For example, when I was developing the lasts (which determines the shoe shape) I tried a squared toe and a more pointy one, and for some reason, that I can't explain in words, the almond toe looked way better and more balanced with the uppers I was making.
LSG: How deep does fashion go for you? How do you see it intersect and intertwine with other aspects of culture?
It's very scary to me that fashion is the second largest industry in the world. I understand that the way you dress is how you express yourself, and that's very important. But the fact that people are consuming so much disposable stuff is very alarming.
LSG: We know you've already had some hurdles in the first stages of production (apartment fire!). What are you most excited about and most worried about in the first year of running your line?
After my apartment burned down, I had to learn how to manage stress and anxiety, because there was nothing I could do, other than recover and move on. I try not to worry too much, things will happen as they must, and even if something goes wrong, it won't be the end of the world. I'm always learning; every day is a challenge, and that's the best part. I'm very excited to see women wearing my shoes around. I can't wait to see how they will incorporate them it into their personal style!
LSG: What was your first fashion related job and how do you see that experience connecting to your current endeavor?
Since then I've shot so many things. It added to my creative process, as I got to wear and examine so many beautifully (or not!) designed clothes and learn about all sorts of fabrics, finishings, hardware, embellishments, etc. And my first internship in fashion was at Assembly New York, where I was the women's RTW design assistant, and she became one of my best friends to this day.
LSG: Can you describe the feelings you want a wearer to experience in your work? What do you wish your pieces to evoke?
I'd like the wearer to feel comfortable and elegant and to understand the versatility. I want her to feel just as good wearing her pair to a meeting or to grab groceries.
LSG: How does your community influence your collection?
I'm lucky to be surrounded by extremely talented people, especially women. I'm really about being supportive and helpful in every way I can. I love connecting people, and I believe in sharing.
LSG: Are you building a team or handling things solo?
It's all me. I did have a showroom for sales this market week, but I do the concept, design, production, marketing, PR, social media, invoices, shipping, customer service... you name it! It's challenging but rewarding.
LSG: Where do you source inspiration and how do you organize it? Do you keep a sketchbook or mood board?
My inspirations come from all over the place. Bonnie Cashin in the 80's, Claire McCardell, Indonesian furniture, Brazilian carnival in the 50's! I source from all over the visual spectrum. I feel just as inspired looking at a Rembrandt painting as I do when I see a nasty rubber glove on the subway. I also love searching for textures, materials, and colors in architecture and interior design books, old fashion publications, going to the MET (my favorite museum in NY), bookstores, vintage shops, and, of course, scrolling through Pinterest or eBay. I pull images to folders and organize them by topics. Traveling is what gets me most inspired, getting out of my comfort zone.
I'm trying to be more organized with my sketches; it's hard because I have them on napkins, opened mail envelopes, and all sorts of little random post-its, but I'll buy a sketchbook!
LSG: What initially drew you to fashion? Can you share a fashion memory from childhood?
My mother used to work in fashion when I was a kid, developing handbags for Brazilian brands. So we had a little room filled with all sorts of trimmings, fabrics, glue guns, etc., and I used to spend afternoons in there making stuff. I remember the first pair of sandals I made; they had a cardboard insole covered in Liberty print fabric with two straps made out of this straw ribbon. They were actually pretty cute! I wish I still had them.
LSG: Tell us a little bit about your routine.
I usually wake up around 9 am, look out the window to check the weather, stretch, and make a cup of black coffee. Then I read my emails and start working. Depending on the day I may or may not have meetings, shoots, and errands to do in Manhattan. While I commute, I like listening to podcasts, or reading a book, so it doesn't feel like I'm wasting my time. When I get back home, I like taking a nice warm shower and making dinner with my boyfriend. Then we usually sit together for an hour to talk about work and move on to watching some documentary.
LSG: Where should we stop in your (Brooklyn) neighborhood? Favorite spots for drinks or shopping?
Oh, so many places! For coffee, I like Devoción, it has such nice natural light and delicious breakfast. Also Bakeri, for little pastries and a perfect almond milk chai. For drinks, I go to Caracas, they have the best Michelada. Or The Commodore for a Budweiser. House of Small Wonder is very delicious. Zenkichi is an excellent Japanese restaurant, and Okinami as well. For clothing, I love Oroboro, Bird for jewelry. For vintage, I go to Where I Was From, Quality Mending, and Malin Landaeus. Also, my favorite bookstore, Spoonbill!
LSG: What are a few random things you love that have nothing to do with fashion?
Camping, stinky cheeses, anything water related, Muji, the way my man smiles when he rides his board, plants, and odd old shit.