It is a pleasure to chat with Sergio Guadarrama and Kade Johnson. Following in the footsteps of iconic design duo’s; Viktor & Rolf and Dolce & Gabbana, Segio and Kade at the helm of couture brand, CELESTINO. Established in 2005, the label unties classical couture with important culture messages. Each CELESTINO creation is designed and produced in the US, taking conscious consideration for sustainability. Hand crafted from up-cycled, organic fabrics, the celebrity backed couture label is challenging the concepts of couture. The brand also wholeheartedly embraces the culture of the LGBTQ+ community, with CELESTINO aspiring to be a positive role model within the somewhat cut-throat, fashion industry.
We would love to hear how Sergio and Kade met? Creative soulmates?
Kade and I met at one of the fundraiser fashion shows I had in Texas. We became friends for a few years and finally decided to go on a date and the rest has been a transformation of building an empire to take on the issues in the world and bring positive change through our craft. As a couple who lives and works together we see ourselves as creative soulmates made for each other, the ying and yang to each other, where one lacks the other steps in.
A successful duo, we understand your partnership works as designer and creative director. What were your initial reactions to each other from a business perspective? Did your shared love of building your brand deepen your bond?
Kade came from a modelling/acting/branding background which really brought another dynamic to Celestino. Having a partner to help and make the world beautiful is really what makes our bond even deeper. We have found that when we were in the same direction creatively, magic happens.
Honestly one would think we would be tired of each other, but that honestly is not the case at all we thrive off of one another (especially when a collection is in the developmental process). Our relationship continually grows and becomes stronger throughout each day we spend together. We are so grateful to have this type of relationship where we can be around each other 24/7.
The brand CELESTINO marries classical couture techniques with intricate and innovative concepts. What does couture mean to you?
Couture to us, means providing a beautifully crafted made-to-measure garment with a personal experience that you could never receive in a store. It’s showing that an actual designer who owns their own atelier, made the garment with their own hands specifically for the customer. It’s the moment of receiving a special one-of-a-kind piece.
Sergio’s Mexican-American roots are infused into the garments’ designs. How important is preserving and honouring your culture?
I always keep the flavour of my Mexican heritage in all my designs. I always want them a little spicy! There is so much beauty and flair in the simplistic elegance of my LatinX culture, it is something I was raised up in and constantly am reminded of. When my designs replicate or showcase inspiration from that culture, it takes me home to my childhood and seeing the beautiful and powerful women that raised me.
How did you come to know Faddy Magazine and the contributing editor, Candice Solomon contributing editor? Why do you enjoy working with the Faddy team?
We had the fortunate pleasure of meeting Candice through one of her beautiful shoots that she styled titled “Gia Certified" with Model Kaki Swid for Faddy Magazine!
We were so enthusiastic that a magazine was supporting and pulling looks from a sustainable and environmentally conscious company trying to make a difference in the world! We need more representation of stylists and magazines coming together embracing sustainable fashion.
After graduating from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, you won numerous fashion design accolades, including the inaugural ‘Supima Cotton Design Competition’. Was it always a dream of yours to study at FIT?
When I found out that I could be a designer as a job and researched all the best fashion schools, FIT was my number one pick. The school was not and still is not easy to get into, and with my determined mindset it was truly a goal I wished to achieve. Plus, saying that I graduated from FIT is a huge plus in this industry. FIT provides one of the best educations for fashion in the entire country.
With many infamous alumni, did the competitive and somewhat intense environment, push and challenge you as a designer?
It was more inspiring being in a room with people that loved the same things that I do and I always look at competition from the perspective that the only competition in life is with yourself.
Has your vision and style evolved or changed over time?
I always had a classic style with a modern twist. My passion for sustainable design and being politically driven is where my journey has continued to evolve. Kade coming on board, has led to us pushing the boundaries further. Creating larger and more avant-garde looks gathers more red-carpet and editorial content for our brand, but I always make sure that the look itself is still true to the classic style that I take inspiration from.
CELESTINO is credited for being positive role models and embracing the LGBTQ+ community. Do you think the fashion industry is moving towards inclusivity? Or is there still much work to be done?
There is much room for improvement, our industry likes to paint a picture of inclusivity and being ethical. Creating cheap products using unethical manufacturing practices, that not only oppresses the groups of people but also the environment. The industry says that “success” is about putting currency before humanity. Our mission is to rewrite that narrative, as any business owners or powerful individuals, humanity should always be put before money.
When it comes to inclusivity a lot of the brands are not designing with LGBTQ+ community in mind. They will create a line and say it’s “inspired” for Pride Month, gather their financial gain, and then not talk about or try and help the community. Then Pride Month comes back around and they gather their money again by stating that they support the community but its reality is more of a part time gig.
What is your opinion on ‘fast fashion’? Can the fashion industry ever be fully sustainable?
There are small designers that are the leaders in ethical and sustainable collections, which is where people should invest their dollars. The fast fashion companies need to go extinct for how much harm they do to people and the environment! It would be extremely difficult for the entire fashion industry to become fully sustainable, because they are lazy and care only about their profit margins.
In an ideal world you would need to apply a lot more sustainable aspects towards each individual company, as well as halting the level of pollution in the world.
Each CELESTINO creation is designed and produced in the US, with all garments constructed from up-cycled and organic materials. Do you think luxury brands should be doing more to achieve sustainable collections?
Yes! It is not difficult to do, all brands should be applying multiple different sustainable aspects to their companies. This should not be something that we compromise anymore, it should be a standard for the entire industry and where customers should invest their clothing purchases, this will send a message that it is no longer tolerated.
New York is often described as an epicenter for bold and brazen fashion looks. How does CELESTINO embody the NY attitude?
We are on the forefront of redefining the meaning of “success”. It is not by the money in your bank account, but it’s about how you are making the world better with what you love to do.
We aspire to create a dream and bring to life a fantasy. We are providing the eye with something inspiring to look at, taken to a deeper level when they hear the story of inspiration that is attached with each collection, we are able to provide education and inspire change for this world.
In addition to donating a portion of your time and profits to humanitarian organisations, you also mentor up-and-coming designers and students from several top Fashion Schools. What advice would you give to aspiring designers and creatives?
That you are all worth your talent no matter what stage of the process you are at. Life is about doing what you love and you should not be ruled by money. You can achieve success and your dreams. It does not always come to you in the ways that you think, but if you stay persistent it will come to you.
This industry is a façade of ease and beauty but it’s not easy at all. It requires a lot of hard work and determination, but you can make it.
We would love to hear a sneak peak of any other exciting projects you have coming up?
We are working on getting local progressive politicians elected into office to make real policy changes to work for all people. Challenging the unethical manufacturing practices that our industry creates and sharing information for future designers to do things the right way. Presenting collections to use fashion as conversation starters of injustices happening in our country and the world, using the vehicle of fashion to reach an even broader audience. We cannot reveal too much, but let’s just say that the next collection will be the biggest and most impactful, to our lives and others, that we have ever created!
What has been the highlight of your career so far and what are your hopes/dreams for the future?
The highlight of my career has been helping as many people as I can with what I love to do. My dream is a happier inclusive world where people are all doing what they love. Nothing inspires me more than when I can sit and talk about the inspiration behind each of my collections. In turn, they gain knowledge about what is happening in our world, and also leave our shows telling their friends about the pieces and how each piece is brought to fruition.