FELICIA & ESTÉE MANCINI OF GIRLS WITH GUNZ
Once upon a time, there were two sisters from Ontario, Canada who had a vision, and made it their job to bring it into fruition. Their names are Estée and Felicia Mancini and they are the women behind Girls With Gunz, an online destination that is part visual imagery of strong, stylish women, part online shop selling designer, vintage, and custom fashion pieces.
I was intrigued by their imagery and unapologetic style, so I found it fitting to feature the ladies in this edition of #WOMANday. Read on to learn more about the ladies behind the brand.
Tell us the story behind Girls With Gunz.
Estée: In university I was studying Sociology and Women’s Studies and I wasn’t exactly sure where everything was headed, I just knew that something was missing. In my second year of university I bought a camera with no expectations of what was really going to happen, I just knew that I really loved taking pictures of my girlfriends. So whenever before we would get ready, I would always be like, “Let me take a picture of you!”. We would use lamps as lights, trying it all out, and eventually, I guess I started realizing that I only liked shooting women, and I really liked the idea of not using any models at all. All the girls I take pictures of are girls that I either meet through my friends or on the street. I’ll approach them or go on Instagram, so it basically started like that; when people that didn’t know me were asking who was taking these pictures, and ‘how can I be a part of it?’.
Felicia: That’s where Girls With Gunz started; that was Estée’s creation, but I think the clothing and the fashion aspect of it was something we’ve been doing since we were kids and we were never really aware of it. I did styling work for different music videos and Estée worked on a few different film sets, and we kind of found ourselves facing the same problems; when budget was an issue, when size was an issue, when options were an issue, and the mall didn’t cut it. It was for our own selfish reasons. Girls With Gunz was for us and our girls, and I think it still remains as that, but I think when we say “our girls” now, it’s girls in Argentina, girls in Greece, etc. But I think it always started with a love for fashion, and a love for stylish and smart women…to kind of fill a void that we experienced in our own professional careers, and that we knew was something that we always did on a personal level. I had a boutique and at that time me and Estée, it [Girls With Gunz] was mostly pictures, but we found ourselves making swimsuits, making shorts, making different things with our aunts; it’s a family affair you can say. The Girls With Gunz family has expanded, but it’s still mostly a family, and I guess that’s where it really started, was here, in Hamilton, Ontario.
What’s it like working with your sibling?
Felicia: Like the best and the worst, because it’s like working with yourself. Everything that I hate, Estée hates, which I think is a very important thing, even as much as things that you love; the way we appreciate style, the things we like, the things we gravitate towards, it’s a good thing working with your sister cuz you can have little spats, and ten minutes later you can say, ‘Ok, let’s get back to work’.
Estée: Yea. And I think because what our Mom always told us, ‘blood is thicker than water’, what better person to do business with than someone who you know will always have your back, do you know what I mean? What I lack, she [Felicia] has, and vice versa. She’s got more of the Public Relations side, and she’s more like the business one, and I’m always the dreamer, thinking of new ideas and how we can present it. What would other girls like us want to see?
So you balance each other very well?
Felicia: Yea, and I think that’s the hardest part about having a business with another person, that balance, and we’ve had this balance since I was like 1 1/2 and she was a newborn baby, or whatever the difference is. It’s a good balance and I think also, there’s nothing personal. So when we have these spats or debates over things, we know it’s for the greater good of the business, and we have to have them. It’s not like being in business with a friend or an associate, where you kind of have to walk on eggshells sometimes? You can be as honest as humanly possible with your sister, so I think it’s been a really good experience. Blood is thicker than water, and that’s what we have always been taught.
How would you both separately define your personal style?
Felicia: Estée and me both think we have an inner-J.Lo inside of us [laughs]. I think my style is very dark, and then I have weird, random moments where I’m in a floral dress. My best friend growing up was a complete androgynous tomboy, so at a really early age, I took notes from her without even realizing it. I love menswear, I love vintage, but I find myself now just trying to create a uniform. So tomboy, I like urban, but I like things that are polished. I like unisex; I think that’s my biggest thing, I like being able to be really girly, but also being able to wear my boyfriend’s t-shirts, and dressing that up as well. I’ll let Estée go…
Estée: Oh, it’s so hard! I feel like it honestly depends on the day, and J.Lo [laughs]. I think the main thing is that I don’t dress for guys, I dress for other stylish girls that notice. It’s like the greatest compliment to me, being able to go out and see another girl who’s got great style say, ‘I really like what you’re wearing!’, and I’m like, ‘YES!’. I don’t really care how other people, especially the opposite sex, are really gonna see it, because I feel at the end of the day when you are unique, people notice that. I don’t really follow what’s going on in fashion too much, I love it and I always keep an eye on it, but I don’t really believe in ‘certain things are in, certain things are out’ because certain things we were wearing a couple of years ago were ‘out’ and certain people are wearing it now, so we don’t really follow it.
What can we expect in the future for Girls With Gunz?
Estée: We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. Hopefully just bigger and better. I really want to travel a lot more and take pictures of more girls, whether in New York, or just all over the place basically. I just want to keep doing that and keep meeting girls out there that are like us. Doing more photoshoots, more styling, some more events hopefully, pop-up shops throughout Canada and the U.S. especially.
Felicia: I think for a while we were both working, Esteé was in school, I was working in different areas in media and we always had this love of fashion that was in the background that was always there. So when Estée started doing the photos, things kind of took a different turn. We found ourselves blending Girls With Gunz, the photo and the lookbook, with the clothes, which now we are really focused on branding, and kind of just trying to make it all fit and mesh as one. So that it’s not even just a clothing line, it’s not even just a look, but I don’t want to be cliche and say it’s a ‘culture thing’, but we’re trying to do something where it’s all unified. We have pop-up shops in our hometown, there’s an event every second Friday called Art Crawl. It’s artists from our city and beyond, and it’s a whole street, a big block, and people sell things, there’s artists, there’s different events, so we like making our local presence, as far as Art Crawl goes, to support the community, and just looking to do pop-up shops everywhere else, and further expanding our collection. I believe it is an exciting time because we have complete control over things, so it’s really up to us where we take this.
Any advice you may have for young entrepreneurs who would want to be in a similar space in fashion and e-commerce?
Estée: I would just say that you have to know that it will be a very difficult one for a while, but if you really know that it’s something that you love to do, then just keep doing it. There really is no option of stopping, it’s just a matter of what’s the path to take for us to get there.
Felicia: I think if I were to have a little bit of advice, it would be to just own everything, from conception to creation. If you are very sure of your brand and what you are trying to portray, you just need to do it, no excuses. If you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you will find a way.
Follow the Girls With Gunz journey on their e-commerce site, Tumblr, and Facebook!
*Photos courtesy of Girls With Gunz