From a farm to a mop to the runway

Fashion designer and George Brown alum Joao Paulo Guedes has had his award-winning designs featured in Vogue, GQ

Joao Paulo Guedes is a fashion designer with momentum on his side.

With his work featured in publications as Vogue Italy, Vogue UK, GQ Brazil, Nord Magazine and others, it would be easy to get a large head. But he doesn’t forget how hard the beginning was for him. 

His first job in Toronto was as a janitor, where he used to clean a building with 25 floors. 

“It was definitely not easy. I cried a lot and wanted to give up so many times,” he said. 

The George Brown College (GBC) alum student said he needed to keep himself strong to deal with the challenges facing him. Language was one of them. When he moved to Toronto in 2008, Guedes didn’t speak English fluently and this made getting a good job tough. 

“Something is going to happen one day,” he used to think. 

Born in Brazil, he spent his childhood on a farm. During elementary school, he moved to Fortaleza, a city in the northeastern part of Brazil. After getting a bachelor degree in advertising and marketing, Guedes ran an advertising agency with a friend and worked as a marketing analyst for a software company.

“I think I always liked fashion, but I was waiting for the right moment to go back to school,” said Guedes, who went to GBC three years after moving to Canada.

“I already had a bachelor’s degree from Brazil,” he explained. “I just wanted to learn something fast and really technical. This way I could just do my job as soon as I graduated.” 

Guedes said his previous knowledge in design has helped him a lot because he has created his own prints. He has also played with textures, details and colours. 

In the four years since he had finished the fashion techniques and design program, the GBC alum has accumulated impressive professional achievements, including running his own brand and designing for big companies like Canada Goose and Sears. 

Guedes landed his first job in the fashion industry with Canada Goose as a control quality supervisor. GBC fashion professor Julie Cichon referred him for the position. He said his start in fashion is evidence that it’s important for students to enjoy their time in college while building a strong network with their peers and professors. 

“I definitely can say so many good things have been happening since I graduated from George Brown College,” Guedes said.

Two years after landing with Canada Goose he joined their design team and six months ago he started a new position as head designer of Sears. 

“I’m really happy and proud of the things that I have accomplished,” said Guedes. 

His first collection released under his name was inspired by India and won the first Emerging Menswear Designer Award contest during Toronto Men’s Fashion Week in 2014. 

A year later, he launched a new line with English cathedrals as a main reference. In 2015, he took the idea of evolution and growth to find his inspiration for the collection entitled Culture. Last year Guedes used his home country as inspiration with the Tropicalia collection. 

“I’m definitely more for a contemporary man,” he said about his style. But Guedes is also planning to make women’s clothes in the next collections.

While Guedes has found success, he feels that the fashion market in Toronto doesn’t support new talent enough. 

“I wish there were more grants for fashion,” he said. “It’s hard to start your own business, but I think if you believe in it, you have to do it.”

Guedes said that GBC students should consider the market outside of Canada to test the waters and that a good way to do that is to enter as many fashion contests as possible.

“Even you’re successful now, outside of Canada you can be more successful,” he said. “You never know where the life can take you. You never know.”

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From a farm to a mop to the runway