One glance at Mari Giudicelli's Instagram would have you thinking she has it all: She's a successful Ford mode who has fronted a Mansur Gavriel campaign and is buddy-buddy with It shoe designer Maryam Nassir Zadeh. She also happens to be a budding designer in her own right and began teasing her eponymous footwear label a few months ago. Long before the shoes were available for purchase, Instagram comments on the sneak-peek pics were raving with urgency: "I need them," one follower wrote. Another asked, "Where can I get these shoes???"
Four months ago, she notified her 25,000 followers that pre-order would be happening soon, thanking them all for their support. But just a few weeks later, the unimaginable happened: Giudicelli's Williamsburg apartment went up in flames.
She had just returned from a trip to her home country of Brazil (where she was finalizing materials and holding manufacturing meetings with her factories) when she received a phone call from her landlord. "It was the worst call, ever," she tells Refinery29. "He was like, 'Listen, you have to get home now because your apartment is on fire.'" Earlier that day, she was home having her heater repaired — an hour later, it exploded, igniting the blaze. Thankfully, she had stepped out to see a friend.
Her belongings (and her samples), however, weren't as lucky — she lost about 70% of her things to a variety of factors: flames, smoke damage, water from the fire hose. As for her debut collection, her sketchbooks, materials, equipment, and every pair she had produced over the past few years were all gone. Only a few samples were found, wet and dirtied, having been shielded under a piece of furniture.
Now, just a few months later, Giudicelli has turned tragedy into something positive, and reflects on the experience as a jumping off point for the next phase of her life. "I was like, you know, I could choose to be really sad and get depressed and give up, or I could just take it as a fresh start and move on and try to do cool things — so that's what I decided to do." Her collection, too, has made its way through — and is now finally up for pre-order on Moda Operandi.
As if emboldened by the harrowing journey that led to their creation, Giudicelli's shoes stand strong: They feature comfortable, classic silhouettes, like mules and loafers, in un-dainty materials, like lizard and wood. Needless to say, when you purchase the styles in this first collection, you're buying a shoe with a powerful tale behind it — one of narrowing in on what's really important, focusing on the future, and learning how to start over, even if it's the hard way.
Click on to shop the much-anticipated collection for yourself; the story, the style, it's too good to pass up.