Model Mari Giudicelli's Cool New Shoe Line Is a Label to Watch

How losing everything in an apartment fire turned out to be a positive thing for the Brazilian-born model, who's worked for brands like Eckhaus Latta and Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
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How losing everything in an apartment fire turned out to be a positive thing for the Brazilian-born model, who's worked for brands like Eckhaus Latta and Maryam Nassir Zadeh.

If you're familiar with Mari Giudicelli, it's likely that you're low-key obsessed with her. She has that downtown cool-girl thing down pat, from her perfectly mussed hair to her distinct yet effortless personal style. Signed to Ford's talent board, she is a go-to model and muse for brands like Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Eckhaus Latta.

Having just received her degree in accessory design from FIT, Brazilian-born, New York-based Giudicelli has channelled her aesthetic into a shoe line being shown to press and buyers for the first time on Friday, as a bookend to New York Fashion Week. The shoes, which will hit stores in the fall, are as cool as she is, and marry classic-with-a-twist shapes (like mules and loafers) with fun, Brazilian-inspired materials and colors.

We spoke to Giudicelli in January about how her modeling career started, the development of her passion for footwear, social media and the devastating apartment fire that left Giudicelli with nothing as recently as December. Read on for our interview and more images of the collection.

A look from Mari Giudicelli's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Mari Giudicelli

A look from Mari Giudicelli's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Mari Giudicelli

How did you get started modeling?

I grew up in Rio, and when I was in college I had the opportunity to move to New York to transfer schools. I transfered to FIT. I was doing fashion design, so I was making garments and learning pattern-making. I was spotted on the street by a photographer who asked to shoot me and I was a little sketched out but it turned out that he was really talented. We shot a couple [of times and] he introduced me to a lot of people in the industry — the rest is history. 

It was helpful because with student life I didn't have any money and it was helpful to get to live in New York, which is not a very affordable city. It's been five years and I get to work with amazing people and amazing brands. I've been shot by Mario Testino, which was the highlight of my career for sure.

Did you sign with an agency right away?

No, it took me a long time. Just last year I signed with Ford on their talent board. I'm not a with their regular models — I'm there as a designer, a stylist, and then model.

Do you do a lot of styling?

Not lately but I used to do it, mostly for fun for friends that are shooting something. Then as a hobby I have photography as well.

There are a couple of brands you work with really consistently, like Maryam Nassir Zadeh. How did those relationships evolve?

With Maryam I met her through Dan, the photographer who found me; he told her, 'I have this girl, I think it would be great for the brand,' and since we met she kept saying I'm the MNZ muse. She always wants me to shoot because she thinks I represent the brand very well. We have an excellent relationship — we discuss everything, even her collections and my collections. She always has good advice to give me about the business, and even my modeling career. Other brands I work for, like Eckhaus Latta for example, I did two runway shows with them already. They like models that are not really just models; they're people that are creative. I love what they do and their backstage is always super-fun. It's all about friendship and meeting cool people. That's what I love the most about my modeling career.

A look from Mari Giudicelli's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Mari Giudicelli

A look from Mari Giudicelli's fall 2016 collection. Photo: Mari Giudicelli

So how did you get into shoe design?

I felt after about two years [of studying apparel design and modeling] that I never really found my big passion, and then I learned [FIT] had a footwear program. I went to visit the labs and I just fell in love with it.

Finally I graduated and I didn't have access to the shop anymore, of course. I didn't just want to keep interning for big corporations so I decided to start doing my own shoes at home. I started doing samples by hand, and at some point so many people were asking for the shoes that I had to find a manufacturer to make them in a bigger quantity. I found one in Brazil, where I'm from. It makes sense because they're very talented, they're a family-owned factory and I speak the language. I've been working with them since July of last year developing the collection. I flew there and sat down with them to discuss every detail, and then I finally got the first samples and I shot them with a friend. I posted on Instagram and they had excellent feedback.

Then, on December 30, last year... my apartment burned down. I saved my immigration documents and passport and all that because they were in a metal cabinet, but everything else: my clothes, my furniture, my footwear materials, leathers, samples, everything burned. I'm moving on, but it was a very weird moment where all the hard work I did for the past five years turned to ashes. [I thought,] oh my god should I give up? [I had to] decide if I'm going to be depressed and give up and cry forever, or it's time to move on and take this as a fresh start and move forward — that's what I decided to do.

Was it hard to get going again after that?

To be honest, I kind of like the fact that I'm living out of a suitcase in a way, it makes me feel free and more mobile. I've always loved traveling and the fact that I had my apartment /shop/studio and all my belongings made me stay at home a lot, and now I feel like I could just go anywhere. It just makes you think about priorities in a way... so it was, let's say, a good experience overall? I'm trying to be very positive about it.

Do you have a home base for the shoe business now?

I don't, I'm working from my friend's apartment. All the machines and everything cost a lot of money and I'm still recovering and trying to get the basics back.

Tell me about the inspiration for the shoes.

The silhouettes are very classic and the materials that I chose make them more unique and contemporary. I feel like they are shoes that you could wear either with denim and a T-shirt or to a party with a nice dress. I want it to be your go-to shoe.

You're still working on wholesale, but do you plan to launch your own e-commerce?

I don't think so because I don't have enough investment money to invest in inventory.

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Do you want to find an investor?

I think that would be nice to find someone who's willing to do that, but so far I'm doing everything by myself.

Do you expect to stop modeling if the shoes take off?

It really depends on how the business goes and if I get insanely busy, I won't be able to manage both things, but I do enjoy modeling a lot. As I said, it introduced me to a lot of amazing people and that's what I like the most, so I'm willing to keep doing both as long as I can.

You're pretty active on Instagram — do you think that's been important for your career or as a way to have a voice?

Yeah I think it's really great. I have fun with it, I just post random things and people seem to like it which is awesome. I feel like people look at it way more than they would look at your own website or a blog or something.