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Spotlight on the Designer: Nicole Guzzo Designs

Nicole Guzzo

I was fortunate enough to partake in a fashion shoot featuring five beautiful Asian models, which is how I was first introduced to Nicole Guzzo Designs (NGD).  What made this shoot extra memorable was the special guest star – a boa constrictor who acted as a sexy prop, entwining himself around us while we posed.  This was no ordinary boa either; he was a showbiz snake and an integral performance partner to his owner, an Alice Cooper impersonator.  Having a hard rockin’ snake around was very apt, considering Guzzo’s strong connection to music.

I had the opportunity to wear two NGD ensembles.  All of the pieces were about transforming me into a kickass rocker chick who is confident and flaunts her sexuality.  I particularly loved the bolero leather jacket with a gauzy bow hanging down the back – the leather was buttery soft and the streamlined cropped style kept it fresh and striking.

I met Guzzo again during VALT Fashion Week in November 2013 and thought it was prime time to feature her sexy designs.  I asked her a few questions, and she in turn let me take a peek into her world and what drives her creative mind.

Photographer Celina Lam |Photography Stylist Lily Li |Hair & Makeup Tiana Allinan | Model Alison Nichol

Photographer Celina Lam |Photography Stylist Lily Li |Hair & Makeup Tiana Allinan | Model Alison Nichol

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into fashion design? Where were you trained?

Fashion has always been in my soul so I knew I had to make it my career. After graduating from high school, I completed my degree in Fashion Design & Technology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, BC.

Both Nicole Guzzo Designs and streetwear line REBEL UP represent a rock n’ roll lifestyle brand for those who wish to stand out and make a statement.  I have shown past collections in Vancouver Fashion WeekMen’s Fashion Week, as well as in various other shows around Vancouver.  My clothing sells worldwide from my online store; I also take custom orders through emails and studio appointments.

What is your design philosophy?

I love to push the boundaries of fashion and always urge people to go against the norm.  I believe style is all about being true to yourself and what you know, rather than blindly following what is “in.”

How would you describe your overall look/style.

The two R’s say it all – Rock and Roll!

Where do you derive your inspiration from?

Rock n’ Roll music is definitely my biggest inspiration, along with influences from high end fashion.   When I’m in my studio, music is constantly playing; some of my favourite bands include Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Guns n’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, Avenged Sevenfold, and Volbeat.  My biggest guilty pleasure (which really annoys my boyfriend) is Ed Sheeran!  I just love how calming his songs are.

If I had to choose one genre to listen to forever it would be 80’s rock ballads by bands like Whitesnake, Journey, Def Leppard, etc.

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Who are your style icons?

There isn’t one person whose style I admire; rather I generally love the clothes worn by musicians from the 80’s and the groupies who were at their shows.  For example, Joan Jett, Nikki Sixx, and Cyndi Lauper all had badass personal style that was in your face and full of attitude.  They realized the importance of wardrobe and weren’t afraid to spend the time and money to develop a very distinctive style that oozed with sexuality.  I love that! 

Who has been one of your most exciting clients?

My most exciting clients are musicians in general, big or small.  When a musician wears my clothing onstage or in a music video it makes me so happy as that is where my clothing belong.

Canadian pop singer Elise Estrada is a big supporter and has worn my clothing in two of her music videos, along with the back-up dancers.  Fox Seeds winner Pigeon Park wore my designs from head to toe in their debut music video, “Lovelight.”  I created custom pieces for Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless, and I am currently working on pieces for a couple of bands that will be touring with the Warped Tour this summer.

Is your clothing produced locally? Where are they sold?

All of my clothing is designed, drafted, and sewn by me in my studio.  My graphic streetwear line REBEL UP is also produced locally.  You can shop via my online store, or custom order pieces and have them fitted in my studio.  I also sell my clothing at various markets around Vancouver.

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What’s up next for Nicole Guzzo Designs?

My Spring/Summer 2014 collection entitled “REBEL TRASH” is launching in March.  It is a perfect mix of 80’s glam, English punk, and modern rock.

I have been invited to reveal my SS 2014 collection in the monthly RAW Showcase taking place in Sydney, Australia – VERY exciting for me!

I have clothing in two music videos coming out this spring, one for Elise Estrada and one for Craig Smart.  I am currently choosing outfits and styling Melena Rounis and her three dancers for her choreography video set to Beyonce’s “Yonce.”

A REBEL UP streetwear look book was just shot and will be sent to retail stores around town for their consideration.

My second collection of leggings will also be premiering very soon.

Everyday something new happens which keeps my job very exciting!

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Interview by Aurora Chan

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FASHION EDITORIAL

Photographer: Celina Lam Photography
Stylist: Lily Li
Hair & Makeup: Tiana Allinan

NICOLE GUZZO LOOK BOOK

Photographer: Andrea Gurniak
Makeup: Nicole Friesen (nao.friesen@gmail.com)
Model: Miss Morgane
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Jason Matlo Sample Sale: Big Savings on Stylish, Quality Pieces

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In a trendy little studio in the heart of Gastown is where you will find Jason Matlo’s studio. When I first arrived, I heard the sound of a sewing machine and shortly after, I saw the two designers hard at work. I thought maybe I was in the wrong suite or interrupting the designers but they were very welcoming and I quickly got straight to shopping. As I scrolled through every article of clothing on the three full racks, I was surprised at the great prices. Everything from fun patterned skirts to elegant sequenced gowns filled the racks; Each garment discounted at 60%-80% off!

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Jason Matlo & Wen-Chee Liu

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I found lots of treasures (unfortunately, not all in my size). A beautiful black silk skirt priced regularly at $400 and now on sale for only $20 was my favourite. The gowns were also unbelievably priced, a violet sequenced mermaid gown was down to $580 from $1597. The selection was directed towards work wear and evening wear with a variety of sizing. There is a mixture of elaborate patterned pieces, neutral pieces, and solid bold coloured pieces. I even spotted a one-shouldered dress in Pantone’s 2014 colour of the year, Radiant Orchid. While going through the racks, I noticed the great quality and soft feeling of the fabric that Jason Matlo uses. After trying on a few items, I ended up purchasing a $152 black cotton/nylon tee for only $15! I had a lovely experience, got a nice addition for my closet, and even got a chance to meet the two designers, Wen-Chee Liu and Jason Matlo. Be sure to check out the Jason Matlo sale next time!

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Words + Photos by DesireeAnne Holder

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MITMUNK: Not Your Average Legging

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The local print clothing company Mitmunk first came to my attention when I was invited to participate in a fun photoshoot to promote their leggings.  I had never seen leggings like this before – covered in brightly coloured prints of chainmail and armour, transforming the wearer into a modern day medieval action figure.  In other words, these leggings were super rad.

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At the recent VALT Fashion Week in November 2013, I had the opportunity to meet the faces behind Mitmunk, Wayne Elliott and Heather Joan Tam.  Since I was unfortunately unable to attend their fashion show at the event, they invited me to visit their studio and check out the stock up close.

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Their homey studio, situated in the industrial area of East Van, consisted of a small showroom out front with a large storage space in the back.  My friend Jenn and I were treated to a teacup of hot toddy, again a first for me.  Over this cozy bit of whiskey goodness, Wayne told us the story of Mitmunk.

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After many years in the video gaming industry as an artist and 3-D renderer in both the UK and Vancouver, Wayne decided to change direction and spent some time assisting a local designer who used a colour dye sublimation printer to create her fashion garments.  It was this printing technique that sparked the idea to create his own pieces inspired by his background in video gaming.

The sublimation process first starts with the pattern being designed on the computer, after which it is printed life-size onto thick stock paper.  This paper and the fabric are then both run through a sublimation printer, the heat of which converts the dye on the paper to a gas which diffuses onto the fabric and solidifies.  Traditionally this method had been used to produce banners and cycling wear, but Wayne brought it into the fashion arena with the production of his first pair of ‘anatomical’ leggings (see photo) which highlighted the musculature of the human leg.  After this first prototype, he expanded his designs to include chainmail armour and eventually bionic leggings.

It was at this time that his life partner, Heather, herself a multidisciplinary artist, became his business partner as well.  Together they showcased their creations at the local Blim Market, but it was their debut fashion show at the inaugural VALT Fashion Week in 2012 which catapulted their presence and attracted a fan base.  Over the past year, they have expanded their product line to include tank tops, tank dresses, tube tops, boy shorts, and have plans to branch out into outerwear.  They first started producing about twelve pieces at a time, and have had to keep increasing their batch sizes multi-fold to meet the increasing demand.  For the foreseeable future, they intend to keep sales solely online, but do have select pieces available at Ayden Gallery in downtown Vancouver.

I tried on a few of their pieces, including one of the bionic tank dresses.  This was done with great apprehension – a bodycon dress made of 100% stretchy material with zero forgiveness?  I had fearful visions of looking like a sausage squeezed into a slightly too small encasing.  Once I had it on however, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Although form fitting, the material was just the right degree of elasticity that it held everything in without squeezing the excess bits out the armholes, while also being incredibly comfortable and lightweight.  Not only that, the bionic pattern was both very cool and cleverly slimming – using strategic colour blocking and lines, the dress literally drew a flattering silhouette, including a shapely butt.  What more do you want in a dress??

Mitmunk’s sense of aesthetic is an obvious favourite amongst the cosplay and nerd/alternative demographic, but it is clear that there is also a much broader potential into everyday street wear, workout and athletic attire, etc.  Wear one of these leggings to a yoga class and you’re sure to be the coolest kid in the room.  I only see a bright future for this burgeoning company and will enjoy watching Mitmunk’s rise to the top of the fashion heap.  And if you’re wondering where the name Mitmunk comes from, as a little boy, Wayne would call a monkey “mitmunk”.  How adorable is that?

Photos of the 3 models in leggings by Jeff Kew Photography

Individual model photos by GrindDown Photography

Style by Fire photos + words by Aurora Chan

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