In the Studio With Danielle Guizio
Danielle Guizio’s studio is set in the heart of the garment district in New York City. Racks of beautiful black clothing sit in front of windows overlooking the bustle of businesswomen and men off to work. Growing up in New Jersey, Guizio’s first “studio” was in the basement of her parent’s house. In 2014, (when she first built the brand off of the $400 she got back from her tax return that year) her primary focus was to strategize her business model to remain profitable and could make sure it could sustain itself, even if that meant sacrificing the luxury of having her own space. Once orders began to pick up, she moved to a $400/month doctor’s office in Clifton.
Today, with showrooms in Milan, Paris, and New York Guizio is thriving. This year, she was placed on Forbes’s coveted 30 Under 30 list, with her designs being worn by the likes of Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber, and Bella Hadid. We met Guizio in her studio to chat about the different spaces she’s created in, her team, and the advice she has for upcoming designers.
How would you describe where we are right now?
We are in the heart of the garment district in New York City.
From starting in your parent’s basement to now being here in this studio, what was the in-between? What were the different spaces that you inhabited and created in?
I started in my parent’s basement because it made the most sense at the time. As my orders began to grow, we were running out of space from the inventory. I had a mini-warehouse running straight out of my basement. Eventually, my dad said, “This is getting to be too much.” Obviously, I wanted an office for myself so badly, but I didn’t want to jump the gun so early on. I wanted to play it safe, at the same time, and make sure that I was growing at a steady pace. So I found a doctor’s office. It was only $400 a month. It was in Clifton, New Jersey, and I was like, “Okay, hm…this works!”
At this point, a few models started wearing my pieces. I would have stylists say, “I would love to come to the showroom!” I was embarrassed not to have my own creative space, but at the same time, I’m happy that it’s a part of my story. I understood that these were the types of sacrifices I needed to be making when starting a business.
So what happened after that?
We began to grow out of the doctor’s office, there were boxes everywhere, you couldn’t even move anymore. We were shipping orders to stores, at this point, and were growing at a fast rate. And so I moved our inventory to a proper warehouse, where we could breathe; then we could hire more people because we couldn’t do it, just the two of us anymore. We moved into a little warehouse and I had two offices; we both worked out of there, and I was able to hire my first intern, my first customer service, and someone else to help with the warehouse with packing and logistics.
Soon after, we ended up outgrowing that warehouse as well. As we started taking more meetings, working with stylists, celebrities and editors, it became more difficult to facilitate from New Jersey, so we moved to the space we have now in New York.
And so what happens in the studio? What do you have here? Do you create here? Do you have photoshoots here? Do you do eCommerce?
We do everything here, we run our eCommerce shoots, we design, we create here. I still stay true to building at a rate that makes sense. I’m not trying to be over extravagant in this moment.
Who is the team at the office?
I have an assistant designer, my production manager, PR and marketing, and three interns. The rest of our logistics team runs out of our warehouse.
You’re in the heart of Manhattan. How does that reflect what you create within the space?
I love the energy over here, and it’s fun to see, you know? Two blocks down, you see everyone hustling, doing the same thing that we’re doing; you see people at the fabric store in the garment district. But at the same time, it can get chaotic over here right next to Times Square. If we had an office in SoHo or Downtown, that would reflect what the brand is. Here, it’s funny because I’m dressed like this, wearing my designs, and then I’m in a sea of everyone else in business suits. I just look at how different everyone’s lives can be.
Your SS20 collection, Corporate Deviance, is almost a reflection of that difference, in that it redefines, or opens up the definition of what a businesswoman is.
The spaces around our office don’t reflect my collection, but in a way, it inspires the rebellion against it. In the garment district, I’m walking around in a crop top, and the woman to my right is completely covered in a pencil skirt, heels, and a jacket. And at the end of the day, we’re both businesswomen. Clothes are such a big part of my life, and I could never imagine having to conform or not being able to express myself through clothing. I have friends that have corporate jobs, and I find it so surprising that, in 2019, there are still so many clothing restrictions in the workplace. That being said, I also like to dress conservative too sometimes, but at the end of the day, it’s about having the choice to wear what I want.
Totally, and for your newest collection, I noticed you incorporated some new cooler tones; previously a lot of your designs were black.
Yes, the color story of my newest collection definitely has more color in it compared to my last collections. The colors portray what’s going on in my life emotionally. But my team definitely pushed me to do incorporate more color too. If I’m not wearing black, these are the colors I would wear.
Who do you design for?
In some cases, I design what I want to wear; if I reach into my closet, what do I want? A leather trench that looks like this, and that? With that being said, I also design with my customers in mind. Now that my brand is becoming more universal, and there are a lot more shoppers worldwide, I’ve definitely taken into consideration what all people are comfortable wearing, not just my preference. I’m maturing, I feel my brand is maturing as well, and my customer is growing with me too.
Kylie Jenner was one of the first people to be spotted in your designs, you mailed out a package to her and she actually wore it! Do you still get as excited seeing people wear your pieces?
Absolutely!! My PR Manager, Michelle, will spot it and send it to me right away. At the end of the day, I appreciate everyone who wears my designs, they all work so hard. I admire them, and it’s incredibly fun to design pieces and have people enjoy them as much as I would. When I design a piece with someone like Bella [Hadid] in mind, and then I see her wear it, it’s a lot of satisfaction.
So your latest collection will be available in January; in terms of your design process, what are you working on right now?
We’re working on Fall / Winter 2020. I am way more excited to design for Fall because I tend to gravitate towards oversized clothing; you have way more materials to work with, especially when it comes to layering. My creative process comes from a natural place.
Since being on Forbes 30 Under 30, how has your perspective changed? As a designer, have you noticed an influx of new resources or has it affected your business at all?
Sales were already turning, but with this title, my personality was put to the forefront, in a way. My perspective changed in the sense that I became aware of the spotlight that was on my brand, and also on me as an individual. It’s helped me step into this new role. I just spoke at NYU about entrepreneurship and I’m speaking at Harvard University next month as well.
It’s like the veil has been lifted…
Yes, definitely. Even with Instagram, in the beginning, I wanted it to solely be about my brand and limited how much I posted about myself. And then I started to become more comfortable with showing my personality and I feel that more people have connected with me because of that.
What’s a piece of advice for someone who looks up to you?
Everyone wants to start a brand, everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. But there definitely is a lot of self-discipline and a lot of responsibility that goes into having a brand. It’s not a game, it’s not something you do to flex on your friends or something you’re doing for Instagram. This is every single day. If you want to be successful, you just have to work really, really, really hard. There are no cutting corners.
Stay true to your vision. People are going to talk; people aren’t going to be always cheering you on. You have to be your own voice of reason, your biggest cheerleader. Keep your blinders up, and don’t look at what everyone else is doing. Focus on yourself and your craft. Remain consistent.
Because you’re the face of Guizio (the brand is literally your name) how do you differentiate your personal life from your business life?
It’s crazy; I am running a major portion of the business aspect of the company, and at the same time, I also have to remain consistently creative. I’ve learned that I have to leave time for myself, and allow myself the time to become inspired. Even if it’s just for a few hours, going to the library to research can be really inspiring to me. But this business is definitely 24-hours, every single day, and I can’t deny that. It doesn’t really feel like work. You get used to it, work becomes life.
Images Courtesy of Kelly Shami.
Stay tuned to Milk for more studio visits.