Miodrag Guberinic grew up in Serbia and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade with a BFA in Costume and Fashion Design in 2005. He was awarded a full scholarship to Northwestern University's Stage Design Program, and graduated with an MFA in Theater Costume Design in 2011. Since moving to New York City in 2011, he has been designing extensively in wide range of theater productions from contemporary to avant-garde, always exploring clothing as a tool to tell the story and express the character. His strong art background and construction skills enable him to fully realize ideas from concept to the finished product. In November 2015 he opened Mio Design Studio, offering design expertise, collaborative creative services, and the finest handcrafted work. Most recent projects include artisan work for the Broadway production of Frozen, Amazon TV Show The Tick, Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour, and Katy Perry's Music Video "Chained to the Rhythm".
Going back to your teenage years in Serbia, when did you start having an interest in fashion design?
I think since age of 3. I used to draw ladies with huge dresses more like objects. Later I would imagine how can an object become wearable garment. I think I always wanted to make something out of non traditional combination of materials or fabrics. I would find inspiration at a hardware store, rubber plumbing supply store or industrial facility. Both of my parents are mechanical engineers. I think I started thinking of costume or wearable art prior to thinking of fashion design.
In one of your past interviews you stated that during your childhood you drew a lot of princesses, then in primary school you started drawing monsters. Later with art education and work, ladies and monsters evolved into androgynous looking beings. How do you feed your fantasy?
That's true. Nature, nano nature and underwater nature was always and still is my inspiration. I’m still fascinated with shapes and colors of insects. I also love seeing art of all kinds, I think I feed off of it through research online. I love seeing new paintings and illustrations, traditional art and crafts as well as new technologies. I love seeing 3d and computer art in general, and of course fashion and costume design for performing arts. I try to use new materials and new technology in my work, I am inspired with how things are made. I follow creators and makers/artisans, not just designers.
Since moving to New York in 2011, you have been designing in different theater productions from contemporary to avant-garde, always exploring clothing as a tool to tell the story and express the character. Which features of a character intrigue your artistic sensibility most?
I think I’m drawn to characters that allow costume to be bold and express their power or fragility. I think I love loud exaggerated emplified design. I think masks and headwear is always most intriguing part for me. I love creating headdresses and they can be great entrance to the character and the rest of the costume.
When you start developing a new project is it an accurate research or rather an inner need that drives your creativity? Are there any aspects of your work that you tend to obsess over?
I always do emotional and garment specific research as well. I think I need to understand where the project comes from emotionally and historically before I commit to any other design choices. With drawings, I make more specific decisions. I love that part of designing. First lines on the paper shape most of my decisions after. Precise drawing and well thought out design illustration makes the communication with collaborators so much easier, more clear and effective.
Your innovative design style has been embraced by non-conformist pop-stars like Madonna and Katy Perry. How does your professional life changed since then?
My creative process has improved with those projects. I really think those opportunities made me a better designer as I think so much further about the piece I’m creating and the client/performers needs. While working in NYC I thought I met perfectionists, but I think when I got to create with Arianne Phillips, the stylist for Madonna, it was fascinating how those limits can be shifted to another level. I love that. Same is working with B. Akerlund, the stylist for Katy Perry. I learned to respect my visions even more and try to stay true to it and deliver more and deliver better. Reasonable budgets also make a big difference. I’m more present and focussed on my work and details within my work as well as where I want to land with whichever project. It’s tremendous gift to create with/for such giants in the Pop music industry. I’m forever grateful for those experiences and will always aim for more of myself because of it.
One particular project was development of costumes crafts and prototypes of iconic helmets and shoulder pieces for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour 2015. Tell us more about this experience.
As I mentioned earlier, It was incredible learning curve for me. I was given all I needed to create. I had incredible team that supported all I envisioned and needed to accomplish and that itself changed my view of what I thought I need as my creative environment and life in general to flourish as an artist. Well assembled team is everything. It was incredibly exciting to see ideas come to life in that environment and with that team.
Is there a piece of design that has been especially meaningful to you or that has played an important role at some point in your life?
I think the last exhibit I had in my hometown before I left Serbia and started my journey in US. That experience had the very strong impact on me as it was uncompromisingly my work. I still use memory of that feeling as a reference to work I’m doing nowadays and how emotionally equivalent satisfaction I get from it. I think I have so much work to do to elevate what I deliver in my personal artwork. I think after moving to NY I was focused on collaboration in theater and commissioned artwork and less on personal work. I am shifting my attention more now to my personal work and what I want to say and bring to life.
Did you find difficult to affirm yourself as a designer in such a competitive industry? What advice would you give to the new generation?
I have a sense that the competition is the fuel for me, I think it helps me grow and see how much I need to work on myself to be a better person, designer and a collaborator. I wouldn't call it difficult I would say challenging. But ultimately I think it is all about your mindset. Your willingness to be open for some adventures and trusting yourself when you feel you should take some paths and at the same time knowing when to see the alarm lights and unsafe environment. Its surviving techniques.
I think my advice would be, find what you love and be persistent to discover it deeper. Create or find nurturing environment for yourself to create. Discover what makes you excited and do it and remind yourself of it as it will guide you to your own unique self expression. We live in world full of distractions, it’s so easy to lose focus and blur line from what is nurturing you versus taking your time. Understand roots of your goals before you aim to achieve them. Feeling safe to be and to create is irreplaceable. Discover and carefully follow what is coming to life through your creative work, it always brings guidance and lessons for your own life first and then a message for people around you.
Your favorite books?
Patti Smith “Just Kids”; Sam Harris “Waking up”; Tim Ferriss “The 4hour work week”. Also I like watching documentaries and recently loved the Netflix series of “Abstract”.
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