You don’t have to be this or that, you just have to be true and honest to who you are, and that’s enough.” – Mondo Guerra
Mondo Guerra is no doubt one of Denver’s most well-known designers. But one thing you may not know about Mondo is his work with the Denver community and Goodwill. For over six years now Goodwill has been hosting a fashion show charity event to help fundraise the Goodwill Industries of Denver. This program “seeks to reverse the cycle of poverty for at-risk students, struggling adults and people with disabilities.” Guerra plays an important role in this fashion event, mentoring the young high school students who are all aspiring designers.
This year the event will take place today, on February 26 at the newly renovated Union Station from 5-9:00 p.m. The show will feature student-made works. Students will create fun, classic, or avant garde peices with an up-cycled look to garments they found at Goodwill. Mondo Guerra will be hosting the event alongside Project Runway mentor, Tim Gunn.
Winners will be eligible for an internship with Guerra himself. This past week Guerra met with the high school students at RMCAD to talk with them about their designs and guide them through the process. Darlene C Ritz, the Director of Fashion Design at RMCAD, was kind enough to allow students to use their new fashion space to create and construct their garments.
303 Magazine went to whiteness Guerra guide these young students and speak to them about their designs. Here’s what he had to say about the Denver fashion scene, going to school for fashion, and his relationship with Goodwill En Vogue.
303 Magazine: What advice would you give to young aspiring designers?
Mondo: It’s really important, no matter if you’re a banker or designer, to remember that there are two parts to it. As creative people we’re problem solvers. So however you approach your day, you make sure to figure out a solution for your problems. The second thing is that you should always apply truth and honesty to anything you do. Put it toward all of your work and people will understand it.
Where did you receive your educational background, or how did you get started in fashion design?
Mondo: I’m not educated, and I know that sounds weird, but I did go to a performing arts high school. However, I was a music major so I didn’t get into fashion until I graduated. But then it just seemed to happen. I started out as a milliner’s apprentice who was the mother of my best friend. She knew I liked fashion and was interested in it. She had knowledge on how to cut and sew and make patterns. She then taught me a set of basic skill so from there I just practiced, practiced, practiced.
It’s a different thing to be a designer then a stitcher. I’ve been both and I still am. So with stitching, just like anything else, you practice. You work, work, work, and figure things out. Then, being a designer is where you can have fun and be creative. But I also feel like, as a creative person and talking to younger people, it’s really important to dream big, but also understand where your skill sets lie. You have to be able to execute your ideas.
Do you think it’s important for students to go to a design-based school?
Mondo: I think that for me and from my personal experience it’s really important to draw from life experience. It’s important to apply what you know to your work. I think it’s different for every student. I’ve met designers who didn’t go to school, and I’ve met designers who do go to school. But I feel like you need to have a foundation, no matter what that is and where it comes from. But you have to have a foundation, you have to have a skill set. It’s important to have a point of view.
Where do you see the Denver fashion scene 10 years from now?
Mondo: Well, I’d hope that there are more resources. I feel that right now it’s very hard to source things; source fabrics, source warehouses, even stickers and pattern makers. But you know, the wonderful and exciting thing about running a business out of Denver is that most of the people working for me are students. They’re in college and graduating. These people are here in Denver right now, so in 10 years I’m sure it’s going to be packed with pattern makers and designers and resources. It’s all very exciting.
Mondo: Well, this is my 4th year with Goodwill. It’s important to me because when I started working and doing fashion, Goodwill was honestly the first place I would go. It was all I could afford. I would go there and buy clothes I was attracted to for their silhouettes or shapes, whatever it was. I’d then deconstruct them and put them back together. In a lot of ways Goodwill taught me my foundation and it showed me how to put things together.
So when I was approached by them to do this event it was exciting for a couple of reasons. I started there. I always tell myself if I wasn’t a designer, I would be a teacher. An art teacher in any capacity. So with this I get to do both. It’s exciting and it’s very important for me to encourage kids and students to do their best work and understand their potential. There’s just so much competition out there and we’re so overwhelmed with social media. We want to be this or that but you need to understand your own potential. You don’t have to be this or that, you just have to be true and honest to who you are, and that’s enough, it’s exciting. So being here and talking with the students and hearing their ideas is really important. It’s exciting to see them wanting to create, and I think that’s the foundation here. Being able to create and show at an awesome platform, that’s amazing. It might be their first experience which really makes it special.