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Life & Work with Inez Bonilla

Today we’d like to introduce you to Inez Bonilla.

Hi Inez, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Jacob Riis Houses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I am a graffiti writer and I spent most of my adolescence as a B-Girl. I traveled to dance competitions with my crew and made cameo’s in Hip Hop videos for artists such as Rakim and KRS ONE at the age of 15. I sold my first painting at 16 years old at an art gallery in NYC.

The name NezYorkCity originates from my name and where I am from. Trend setting music artist was my inspiration to create a fashion brand. Prince and Madonna played a huge role in my style and design process. Each one brought something different throughout the decades. I saw how their fans reacted to how they reinvented themselves and that was the type of impact I wanted to have in my career of designing. I wanted to merge the relationships between streetwear, art, and culture to express the grit and rawness of where I came from and the influences of my personal style. Each piece is deconstructed with a moccasin stitch creating patterns that show specific parts of the body.

NezYorkCity was created in 2005. I created this design on a Birthday solo trip to Jamaica. I brought my sewing machine to teach myself how to sew but I forgot the manual at home. I bought five different Bob Marley T-Shirts at a market to work on. I started drawing lines on where to take in so the t-shirt could fit my body. I cut shreds of other t-shirts so I could use that for the stitching. When I got back to Miami, I wore the pieces I made out to the nightclub and the response caught me off guard. When I told my friends and women who approached me what I started doing they placed orders immediately.

My brand is designed for the mavericks who don’t follow the seasonal trends. Our garments are comfortable, seasonless and sexy. Every piece is carefully handmade and one of a kind. The majority of our pieces are 100% cotton making the care easy and long-lasting. We offer our customers an option to customize their own pieces by choosing exclusive color schemes and what part of their body they would like to show.

“I want everyone who purchases one of my designs to feel great and confidant wearing it. My brand caters to all types of women who want to express themselves through individuality, art, fashion and culture. My goal was to create something that first existed in my head and now has come to life. I hope people love it as much as I do because every design was created with love.“ Nez~

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
NO! It has not been a smooth road at all! I had to put my passion aside for ten years. Throughout that time, I had two careers. Life got in the way but I knew I would always circle pack and pick up where I left off. I took on a career as a Model Agent in New York. I opened up my own Mother Agency where I represented ethnic models and placed them with agencies worldwide. During that time, I was introduced to an opportunity of a lifetime and I took it. My second career was assisting a talented multi-Grammy award artist Lauryn Hill in her styling department. I fell in love with design all over again. I decided to go to college at the age of 32 to get my degree in Fashion Design. Instead of working at an entry-level position at someone else’s brand, I decided to revive my own brand. I relocated to Los Angeles in 2017 and I have worked countless gigs and jobs to support my dream. I walked into stores and spoke to boutique owners and made calls all over the US to promote my brand. In 2019 I made it to NYFW to debut my first collection at Pier 59 studios. I lost the momentum because of Covid-19 but I am still STANDING! I am dropping my 2nd collect December 2021.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a Fashion Designer and artist. I specialize in deconstructing up-cycled garments with a moccasin stitch. I am known for my music artist t-shirts and my artwork from the canvases to the walls. I am proud of never giving up on my dream of becoming a designer. I owe that to the five years old Inez. My pieces are one of a kind. Each piece takes 12-84 hours to make. The cuts are never duplicated, I don’t know what I am going to do until I start cutting. That’s what set me aside from the other brands. I wing it! If it works YES! If it doesn’t, back to the drawing board.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
My elementary principal came to pick me up on a Saturday. I thought I was in trouble but I wasn’t it was the total opposite. I thought it was really cool to see her in the projects she was cool and scary at the same time. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told her I wanted to be a designer. She took me to her friend’s warehouse in the garment district in NYC. As soon as they pulled the door up, my mouth dropped. Everyone was working on something it was busy and all I saw was this tall woman come to me and introduce herself to me and said “Welcome to Zum Zum” She was the designer and walked through the entire process from illustrations to finish product. We walked a crossed the street to Macy’s on 34th street and had lunch. After lunch, we went upstairs and she pointed out a coat and asked me to look at the price tag. It was her brand and the price said $3,000 dollars. In the nicest way possible, she said clean up your act if this is what you want to do because there is a lot of work that goes into this line of business and not everyone can do this. Best scared straight lesson ever!


  • $50
  • $1200

Contact Info:

Image Credits
First 3 images Photographer Essien Akann MUA – Ruth Medrano Model – Jayla @ Photogenics Model management Stylist: Inez Bonilla Other 3 images – Photographer SANTI Model – Laura Stylist – Inez Bonilla

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