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Dress You Up in His Love: Mondo Guerra Designs HIV Community-Inspired Dress for World AIDS Day

December 1, 2012

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You were inspired to make this dress from a mural, which is one type of artistic expression, and then you have your type of artistic expression, which is through fashion. What were some of the emotions that you felt when you were making this dress? What did you want it to say and translate from the mural to the dress?

Mondo Guerra's dress

The dress designed by Mondo Guerra, inspired by the HIV community

Well, I think, when I first started making it, I was like, "This isn't special enough. I'm really sticking to something that's safe, something that I know." And I wanted to make something that people could relate to in their own way. I wanted to get the personality of the dress through what they contributed. I feel like it had to be something that wasn't necessarily "off-the-rack." Something a little more high fashion. Something a little bit more interesting. Something we haven't seen, but something that is definitely a conversation piece. You know, if this girl walks into a room at any event, you want to ask her, "Oh, that's a cool dress, where did you get that from?" She can say, "Oh, Mondo Guerra designed it. He's working on this campaign, IDesign." What a great conversation opener, right? When you say "Who's that girl?" We want to know, we want to have that conversation, find out what this is all about. It should definitely be a conversation starter, so I had to push it a little bit. Honestly, it took me a long time to really nail down what I wanted to do, because I kept on wanting to make it very special, a very special dress, very unique.

Well, part of it is, you were inspired by this mural, which is a collaborative process, which involves many voices, and then you have dressmaking and fashion designing, which was your vision -- one person. I'm really curious, where do you think that the process of mural making and dress making can speak to each other? Where are the overlaps?

I think, working through the mural is really about, we can take away from the texture, and we can take away from the colors. If you look at the dress, there's definitely representation of the color from the mural. Most of it was the feeling behind participating and the feeling behind sharing your story, and the feeling of living with HIV. The dress, if you look at it, there's definitely a lot of structure to it. It's very tailored. Then there's some softness, there's some really beautiful detail work that really makes the dress. It's kind of like what we do in our proactive healthy life. We have to have this conversation, that's our structure, our foundation, to figure out what we need to achieve to be 100 percent, and then we do all the detail work. Beyond that, there's a little touch of love. You have to put in a little touch of love to continue to be responsible and proactive in your healthy life.

What are the plans for the dress? Is it going to be eventually for sale? Is it for sale now?

Well, we have big plans for the dress. We're not really ready to start talking about them yet. But I will say, that this is really echoed into my personal life, hearing these stories, but this whole idea of the journey and the process has echoed into my artistic work, so it will be echoed into the collection in the fall of 2013.


The theme of World AIDS Day this year is "Getting to Zero," which means zero new infections, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero stigma. Since you did do this dress for World AIDS Day, how do you think the IDesign campaign figures into the theme of "Getting to Zero"?

Well, I think it's about conversation. That's one of the biggest things we talk about in the campaign, is having this conversation with your doctor to find proper treatment for you as an individual. I think it's also about having an inner dialogue. When you're being creative, you always second guess, you always ask yourself questions, you always want to make it the best, right? Why wouldn't you want to make your treatment the best? You really do have to have this conversation. I think the idea of "getting to zero" is a perfect theme, because we're only going to get to zero if we have this communication, whether it's communication with your doctor, or if it's communicating to someone who you think might not access this information and educate themselves. So, it's about all of us talking to each other. It's not an issue of being HIV negative or HIV positive; it's about really having an open conversation and having discussions about the topic of HIV/AIDS.

When I was reading about IDesign and the dress, so much of the mission and the agenda of the campaign is about personal responsibility and personal empowerment and the idea that you can't have the doctor do everything and make all the decisions. You have to be the best advocate for your own health. I was wondering, what is your relationship with your doctor and how has that grown in as many years as you have been seeing your doctor?

I will say one thing about that. I think that, once I started being proactive -- meaning being prepared, going in there, asking questions about CD4 counts, my viral load, talking about the side effects, and just asking all those other questions that come to mind, maybe I had a sore throat a couple days ago, whatever it was, I'd ask those questions -- when you're involved, when you go in there and ask questions, and you're interested, I can tell you that my doctor responded to that. It made me feel like my doctor was more interested in providing better care to me. It really is a give and take. It really has to be an open communication to really achieve your best self as part of a healthy life.

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See Also
World AIDS Day 2012: Features and News

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