STYLED BY: SAMANTHA BURKHART
MAKEUP & HAIR BY: BRIE LEACH FOR MAKE UP FOR EVER PHOTO SHOOT LOCATION: ANDAZ WEST HOLLYWOOD
These dynamic DJing designers show no signs of slowing down and gave me a look inside of what they refer to as “POSSO Universe.” Marylouise Pels and Vanessa Giovacchini have been besties since high school. Both women come from very creative backgrounds that got the ball rolling into what has become this amazing world of DJing at festivals like EDC in Vegas and Ultra in Miami, and designing a line with Volcom. They’ve been designing clothes since the age of 15 and got their start DJing in 2008. They’re also weekly contributors to Style.com, where you can read their candid view on fashion, music and traveling. In terms of their music style, they fall under the EDM category. And though electronic dance music seems to be the norm these days, these girls were playing at clubs when the genre was still underground and mostly referred to as techno. In 2007, they reinvented “spats, ” which are leather covers to go over your shoes and were popular in menswear in the late 19th and early 20th century. Successfully selling their line to celebrities, they found a market and filled it while being unique in designing something that hadn’t been around for about 100 years. POSSO means “I can” in Italian, and is their mantra as hardworking individuals who live for inspiring others by doing what they love.
Q: It is so very cool that both of you stem from these sort of classic creative hobbies, playing piano and writing poetry. When did that start for you?
Marylouise Pels: My aunt, who is still one of my favorite people on the planet, was an incredible piano player, and when I was little I was obsessed with her and wanted to do everything she did. When I was four, she taught me how to play Beethoven and from then on I was classically trained and took lessons through high school.
Vanessa Giovacchini: Growing up, I was always reading and writing (probably the worst emo poems ever), but at my college, I got really into poetry and took the course every semester. At Whittier College (where the mascot is ironically the Poets) they had a really cool program with a few professors that lived on campus. Every Tuesday my poetry professor would host a poetry reading at his house where a well-known poet would come, and we would all go out to dinner or make dinner and then they would give a reading. It was cool to have poetry be such an alive part of my life when today, poetry’s rockstar moment in culture has passed. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with all that poetry study at the time, but I am so thankful for it now when we are writing music.
Q: Can you tell me how you got your start up in the DJ world?
MP: We’ve been DJing together since 2008, when there were basically five music blogs and electronic music was still pretty underground. Of course, there was Daft Punk that sparked the whole thing, and then acts like Justice, Mstrkrft and Simian Mobile Disco started playing smaller clubs in LA. It was a really exciting time in the scene because no one knew how to categorize what was happening in dance music. Most DJs back then weren’t producing; then the shift happened to producers becoming DJs. We started writing our own music in 2010 on the piano, and a lot of it had a dramatic modern cabaret flare and blues based vocals. We’ve sung, and played keys live at festivals before, and when our new music comes out we will be focusing on touring our music live.
Q: Describe your first experience playing live as a DJ duo. Where was it and how long ago?
VG: Hyde in West Hollywood in 2008. It was a scene-y spot, really small with good vibes, and for some reason they let us play whatever we wanted, which at the time was a mix of classic house, obscure disco and funk—stuff from Calvin Harris’ first album, and electro/ blog house.
Q: Describe your sound in three words.
MP: Aggressive. Uplifting. Dramatic.
Q: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
VG: In high school, we had a deep Led Zeppelin obsession along with all classic rock and Chicago blues guys (we’re from a small country town in Northern California). Wanda Jackson, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Stevie Nicks and Bob Dylan are all musical inspirations for us. On the dance side, more recently we’re into Mercer, Don Diablo, Arty, Hard Rock Sofa, Calvin Harris, Firebeatz and Brass Knuckles.
Q: What advice can you give to DJs in this highly competitive field who are starting out and trying to get their name out there?
MP: People write us about this on Facebook a lot. We like to simplify it like this: Number one, know who you are and what you want to say through your music. Number two, don’t try and replicate your favorite producer—work hard on defining your sound. Number three, don’t care what other people think and speak your truth and be genuine with your use of social media.
Q: You’re on tour right now with destinations like Indonesia and China. How has it been so far? What has been the most amazing thing you’ve seen?
VG: We’re writing you from Singapore right now. We have a few days off here. We just wrapped up three shows through mainland China and are headed out to Jakarta, Hong Kong, Taipei and Saigon. The day we arrived in China, student protests began in Hong Kong against the government. There is no access to google in China, or YouTube, Twitter or Facebook unless you can afford to pay for access to a proxy server. They are allotted Instagram though, but because of the protests, the government shut down Instagram access because they don’t want people sharing images from the protest. We live in a place where we can dress how we want, say what we want and share it with the world on social media. There are places in the world where that right doesn’t exist, so being cut off from that really put things in perspective for us. We like to connect with our fans. They’re like our family, so it was really emotionally stifling. Our music that’s about to come out is about owning our power as humans and as women and working hard to get what we want in life, so having that experience and seeing how women are treated over here really added some good fuel to the fire.
Q: When did the idea of designing clothes come about and how did that dream become tangible?
MP: We started designing clothes together when we were 15. We lived in our own little world and for the most part, we still do. We don’t really go shopping that much and if we do it’s vintage or Nasty Gal. Our style is aggressive and has a point of view; we aren’t into trends. We kind of just play off of each other’s style and love finding weird vintage pieces. In 2007, we started a line of spats which are leather shoe covers that go over your shoes. Rihanna wore them for her Grammy performance of “Umbrella, ” Katy Perry wore our belts on her first world tour, and Victoria and David Beckham bought matching spats from us—that was a highlight. Lady Gaga also wore them. For us, design is about two things: introducing a new idea and promoting versatility. Accessories for your shoes interested us because it was unchartered territory (spats were popular in menswear in the late 19th/ early 20th century) and in our collection for Volcom, we focused on sexy basics with classic silhouettes and pieces that could be worn multiple ways.
Q: Do you have a favorite item of clothing that you have designed?
VG: We did this vintage inspired open seam long wrap cardigan for our Volcom capsule collection that could be worn multiple ways and also converted into a wrap dress.
Q: Do you have any clothing designers or eras of style that inspire your own clothing designs?
MP: We are both obsessed with Versace and feel really inspired by early/mid-90s fashion design when supermodels reigned. Fashion then was charged with sexual power, but it was also fun and playful. We think a lot of fashion is way too serious. Real style is about taking risks to project who you want to be with your own attitude and doing your hair and makeup the way in which you feel your swaggiest. It’s more about what you’re projecting rather than the label you’re wearing. To us, that’s what LA style is all about. It’s not about who you’re wearing; it’s about what you’re wearing. The only who you should be wearing is yourself.
Q: What was your favorite part about collaborating with Volcom?
VG: We absolutely love everyone that works at Volcom and connected with them right off the bat. The brand and the people that work there all have the same mentality that we do about fashion…fashion shouldn’t be taken so seriously! They have a punk rock irreverence that is very genuine, and they are very true to their roots.
Q: Can we look forward to any future collaborations with them or someone else?
MP: Yes, yes yes! We love collaborating, but ya’ll are just going to have to wait and see what we got up our sleeves…
Q: I read that leather is your thing. How would you describe your style?
VG: In one word: Aggressive.
Q: Is your merch being sold anywhere right now? What stores?
MP: Online on our Facebook page there’s a link to our merch. We will have new merch out by early 2015 that we’re really excited about.
Q: What is your favorite thing about what you do?
VG: Waking up every day and knowing our purpose. For a long time, we didn’t know. We also believe in doing things that scare you. We write music every day and everything about making music is scary. It exposes you; it makes you admit things you aren’t proud of. It also allows you to explore the person you want to become. Some days it comes easy and some days it doesn’t, but the fight to get it out is the most exciting addiction in the world. There’s no other art as far as we’re concerned that hits you in the heart like music, and it’s something that everyone can connect to on a universal level when it’s done right.
Q: I saw that you’re contributing writers for Style.com. What don’t you do? Tell us a bit about that.
MP: We are honored to be a part of the Style.com fam and love the open platform we have to express our views and opinions as well as new designers we love and want to showcase. We also include new music we love, travel tips and food. It’s a genuine glimpse into the POSSO Universe.
Q: Talk about how you came to name yourselves POSSO.
VG: When we started POSSO we wanted a name that was catchy, sexy and positive. We spent our early years always scheming on our dreams, so the name didn’t come overnight. We are both Italian and lived in Florence for a time, so when we happened upon the word POSSO, somewhat out of context years later, it had that synergistic “click.” POSSO means “I can” in Italian and everything we have sought out to create under POSSO from design to music we want to infuse with a positive affirmation. We believe that working hard and fighting for your creative point of view is the only way to inspire other people. At the end of the day inspiring people through doing what you love is the only thing that really matters, and it’s the only thing that lasts. We think that EDM has the most potential to spread this idea.
Q: What is your one staple clothing item you must take with you when you travel?
MP: My Nasty Gal leather jacket that I lost last week in China. I was sober too; an ultimate fail. Blame it on the jetlag…there will always be more leather though.
VG: I’m addicted to tying button down shirts around my waist when I fly. I always have to pack a bunch. I left my favorite one, a silk fake-Versace-esque-Vegas-queen-of- hearts one (yes all that), at home though, because I would wear it every day if I could and I don’t want it to die.
Q: What was the most exciting thing that happened for POSSO this past year?
MP: The most exciting thing that happened was getting new management and a new agent. We’re really jazzed about our new managers Super Music Group and our agent Denise at AM Only who get us 100 percent and are also some of the coolest, hardest working humans we know.
Q: What can we look forward to seeing from you two in 2015?
VG: MUSIC, MUSIC AND MORE MUSIC. Keep up on our SoundCloud, www.soundcloud.com/posso.