Manila-based cutting-edge retailer MiZ+MOXiE offers Filipino-designed clothes that give girls of all shapes, sizes and genders the chance to be both naughty and nice.
Vaunt Magazine: What is your background, and how did you find your way into the word of fashion?
Geo Custodio: Funny you should ask! I actually was accepted into college to pursue a degree in medicine (at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., USA). I believe my prospective major at the time was neurochemistry—haha! Not too long into my freshman year, with biology, chemistry and physics all in the same semester, I quickly realized that medicine wasn’t for me. Didn’t care much for the science behind it, but what I really loved was the human factor of it all.
I spent a couple of semesters finding my concentration. After my junior year, I took a leave and came back home to Manila. It was during that time my mom put a paintbrush in my hand and said, ‘We’ve so many blank walls, make something!’ And when I returned to Hamilton after that, I majored in studio art and sociology.
After college, I came home and was invited to illustrate a trend report for one of the top fashion magazines here—and that was how I stumbled into the world of fashion. After illustrating, I was invited to write, and eventually I was able to land some styling gigs as well. I was plucked from the publication industry when an e-commerce retail giant opened up in Manila and invited me to join the team. Eventually, I became the head of production at that company and was able to identify the difference–and balance–between retail and design. I believe there is a difference!
Vaunt: When and how did the idea for MiZ+MOXiE come about?
Geo: It was at that retail company where the idea for mizandmoxie.com started to form in my mind. After about a year or so at that company I felt disenchanted and quite separated from what the company stood for, and I knew that if I really wanted to affect a different type of change I would have to take the plunge and start something of my own.
The principles of MiZ+MOXiE have always been in my mind, and once I put everything down on paper, the pieces really seemed to fit. The first thing I knew was that I wanted to focus on the little guys, the small independent brands and designers in Manila. And that’s another thing I was sure of—I wanted to only carry Filipino businesses. I also wanted to build something that was at once forward-moving and forward-thinking, but also appealing to the Filipino market
In terms of the brand approach, I asked myself, what is the one thing that makes Filipinos Filipino? And the answer was clear and simple: fun. Filipinos are definitely fun and fun-loving. It’s the one thing that we all have in common as a people. And it’s definitely my approach to life and my approach to fashion as well. I want consumers to be a bit more adventurous with their style choices and for designers to find their voice by playing with the rules of design a bit more.
The concept behind MiZ+MOXiE as a brand comes from the attraction, balance and oscillation between opposites, specifically the light side, the safe and sweet ‘Miz,’ and the dark side, the dangerous and edgy ‘Moxie,’ in people. We all have those two sides, and I want people to be able to realize and embrace every facet of their individuality.
Vaunt: How many fashion designers and companies do you feature, and what can you say about them generally and individually?
Geo: Mizandmoxie.com currently houses about 50 different brands and designers across the major fashion categories of apparel, shoes, bags and jewelry—all proudly Filipino.
The first thing that I really want to say about these young independent Filipino brands is that Filipinos don’t realize how much talent and good design we have at home. Our roster of brand partners is quite diverse. We have pieces that feel a bit more accessible and high-street, and some designers who are a bit more avant-garde. What we really push for when we take on a brand into the MiZ+MOXiE playground is for them to strengthen their design voice and to not feel pressured to conform to what everyone else is producing or what is ‘trendy’ at the moment. We also love featuring the stories behind the brands and the designers that we carry. Not all of them went to school for design but have found a passion and place in design and fashion.
Vaunt: Who are MiZ+MOXiE pieces for?
Geo: One of the goals of MiZ+MOXiE is to have more Filipinos buying, wearing and celebrating Filipino designs. But we also have an international following–so really, MiZ+MOXiE is made for people who are adventurous and experimental and authentically themselves.
Vaunt: What are the differences between your customers in the Philippines and those in other parts of the world?
Geo: I think the majority of the Filipino market is still a bit more tentative when it comes to experimental dressing. Additionally, there is an unfortunate stigma to ‘buying local,’ thinking that it’s somehow inferior to imported brands and items. This idea is complete garbage!
You look at other foreign markets like Korea, Japan and Thailand, and local brands are not only encouraged and celebrated to thrive, but they thrive because the locals continue to actually purchase pieces. It’s one thing to feature a brand in a magazine or blog, but if you really want to support these little guys, you need to make a choice to forego the large, fast-fashion chains and put your money back into the community instead.
Vaunt: Your models are absolutely beautiful and a perfect microcosm of your customers as well as representing the scope of femininity, ranging from biological (cisgender) women and transwomen to androgynous males. How do you curate looks in a way that complements all of these beauties?
Geo: I think that’s why the personality of the model is particularly important if they are to become a part of the mizandmoxie.com catalog. I try and ‘assign’ pieces or looks that feel the vibe of the girl–I actually use the term ‘grrrl’ to be more inclusive–more than their ‘fashion’ look, per se. I find that this approach ensures the girls showcase the pieces better, and when it comes down to it, we all just have a lot more fun! We recently did a 13-hour catalog shoot with three models, and it didn’t feel like work at all.
Vaunt: How did you choose your models?
Geo: If you’ve seen the website, there’s no particular look to models that we invite and feature on the site. We have girls of different ethnicities, backgrounds and gender self-identification. What really gets me is substance and personality. I want to know that these girls have a point of view, that shooting with mizandmoxie.com isn’t just a job, it’s an experience that we all share together as a team. Each outfit that we shoot really isn’t about trends or just ‘looking good,’ it’s about telling a story, portraying a character, while still showcasing the design of the garment.
Vaunt: How has your identity as a transwoman shaped or informed MiZ+MOXiE’s sensibility?
Geo: I think that my identity as a transperson, as well as other aspects of my personhood, has definitely shaped mizandmoxie.com from its core down to its look. I do think that being trans plays a very large role into the decisions I’ve made into creating the brand.
At mizandmoxie.com, we really celebrate diversity, inclusivity and individual style—and the adventure and play one can go through to find it. We don’t rely on trends to sell our pieces, per se, as we have designers with very specific viewpoints and aesthetics who may not seem ‘in’ but are still totally amazing, you know? And I think this really stems from my belief that living your true authentic self is one of the most beautiful and sublime things an individual can accomplish.
In terms of retail message, we’d like to tell our girls that whether you’re a preppy girl, a boho chick, neither, both or somewhere in between, you are welcome here. Also stemming from the idea of the authentic self, we really encourage our brands to really find their authentic design voice, to strengthen and harness it and not to be swayed too much about what’s in and what sells. I also think trans and queer people in general have a resilience when faced with adversity, which helps as a startup, believe me. Um, hello potential investors? Lol.
We also have a wicked sense of humor.
Vaunt: How many models do you feature on your website, and what is the gender breakdown?
Geo: We currently have around 25 models on the website of different heights, skin tones, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender expressions. Twenty-one are cis-female. One is openly lesbian–we honestly don’t assume anything about our models’ sexual orientations, so maybe there are more, or those who are bi. Four are on the andro-trans spectrum: One is andro, one is trans non-hormonal and non-surgical, one is trans hormonal non-surgical, and one is trans hormonal and surgical.
Vaunt: You feature tops, bottoms, shoes, accessories. Any new types of clothing coming?
Geo: We’re actually launching a few new categories soon! Beauty and fragrances, lifestyle and plus-size—honestly, I wanna call it something else. Internally, we on the team tell ourselves that we want all ‘grrrls’ welcome here—and that doesn’t just mean girls in the identity sense, but ‘grrrls’ of all shapes, colors and sizes, as well.