Masterful indeed, Mio Guberinic zoomed from school to designing costumes for Katy Perry in record time. He is the recipient of the 2019 TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award, presented to an early-career designer whose work has gone beyond mere beginner's promise and has entered a period of fruition. The award is given in recognition of Irene Sharaff’s wish to see young designers encouraged on their way to fully acknowledged success and excellence in the field. The 2019 Sharaff Awards are presented by TDF on April 26 at The Edison Ballroom in NYC. Live Design chats with Guberinic about his life in costumes.
Live Design: In a nutshell what was your career path?
Mio Guberinic: I graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago, with two designed shows at the Steppenwolf Theater. I enjoyed Chicago, but I knew I wanted to grow more and pursue a career in NYC. One week after graduation, I moved to NYC as I was invited to design my first show, Ghost Girl, and that started my journey here. Since then I have designed for theater, special nightlife events, dance shows, avant-garde theater, pop stars, club scene, and any and all projects that came my way. I always aimed to focus on unique design projects where I could create new costumes and wearable art. With time, my responsibilities and scale of projects grew. During my first few years in New York, I also assisted Fabio Toblini and Paul Tazewell. These were both incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experiences, and helped me grow as an artist and understand better the professional world of costume designers.
Besides designing for theater, I worked on window display projects creating specialty costumes and crafts for windows on 5th Avenue. I worked for Spaeth Design Studio and Burke & Pryde studio. My experience as costume creator/designer for windows and costume designer/maker for theater always overlapped. My goal was to push the limits of what’s considered wearable and explored new materials and ways to express myself and characters and stories I was developing.
LD: How do you approach a project in terms of research, cues from the script, character development vis-à-vis the costumes?
MG: I start with overall artistic emotional response and then I get more specific with each character. Sketching as I read also helps. I also like to research what was done previously with a particular show or a character, so that knowledge helps me lay the groundwork for an original artwork. I like to skip the paths that were already taken and carve my own.
LD: Fabrics...favorites and how do you choose them?
MG: I love to develop new textures and materials, and layer multiple fabrics to create my own. I like using non-traditional materials in development of costumes. Since I have a laser cutter and 3D printer in my studio, I try to experiment with ways to gain new textures. I’m always excited about new chrome-like materials mimicking metal but conforming to the body.
LD: Favorite costumes shops and examples of special items made for you?
MG: I feel very fortunate that I actually run my own costume studio, Mio Design NYC, where I develop a lot of my own design work and work for other designers for Broadway, TV, and film. My most recent ambitious undertaking was a Medusa costume I designed and made in my studio. I developed its spine from laser-cut foam components, and 3D printed components - snake skulls...all embellished in Swarovski crystals.
Being in Brooklyn, I have access to other 3D printing studios like Roboto NYC. They have multiple kinds of printers and some larger machines so all of the snakeheads were printed there while my team did painting and finishing with crystals in my studio. I like overlapping traditional costume making skills with contemporary technology.
LD: Favorite or most challenging project to date, and why?
MG: Favorite? There are many, but at the moment I would say “Court Garden,” the dance piece I designed for A Canary Torsi Dance Company. I had great support from my team, and when we opened the show, it felt that there was a moment of theater magic. Every part of the puzzle came together perfectly.
LD: What advice would you give to design students?
MG: Believe in your vision as an artist. Make time to create your own art as often as you can. Observe beauty in nature; nature is the best designer. Unfollow influencers and follow true artists.
Click through the slideshow for more costume sketches and images of his designs.