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ShopLocalSD: Designer Michelle Aquino - Miss Vinyl

Designer Michelle Aquino.
Photo by Rebekah Sager

Stylistas of San Diego would agree that National City is not ordinarily known as a fashion destination.

Actually, up to now it’s been better known for its “Mile of Cars” (the first “car mall” in the world), its 19 percent poverty rate and some of the toughest violence in the county.

Enter Michelle Aquino, aka Miss Vynl. The young seamstress and clothing designer has emerged fully formed from her hood unscathed and with a clothing line called M.DOT Design Studio. Despite the odds and obstacles of a difficult childhood—or maybe because of them—Aquino is taking the design world by storm. With fresh and inventive looks, Aquino’s clothes are fun and girly, but above all, meticulously crafted.

For $35-$150, Aquino will design and sew a dress for you. She has created a following of young women who don’t have a lot to spend but love the idea of custom clothing—choosing a fabric, having measurements taken and leaving the rest up to Aquino.

Aquino determines the style of the dress based on meeting her clients. “I look at what they’re wearing when they come to me. How they carry themselves and how confident they are help determine the style,” says Aquino. Also, the fabric a customer chooses dictates the flavor of dress or romper she’ll create.

M.DOT Design Studio.
Courtesy photo

Aquino’s style is best described as tropical Filipino street wear mixed with Alexander Wang’s '80s, French-chic and rock-grunge. All together, her clothes translate to sexy-beachy-SoCal-style-meets-Manila-urban-edge.

“My goal is not to follow trends but to create them,” she says.

Aquino grew up watching her grandmother sew; she’s otherwise self-taught. She practiced her skills early on by creating dresses for her four sisters and watching YouTube videos. As early as eight years old, she was hooked on fashion.

At 11, Aquino bought her first Brother sewing machine on Craigslist. Sadly, the machine arrived broken, and she lost her money. Undaunted, she had it repaired, and she hasn’t slowed down since. In high school, Aquino made her own prom dress, a simple, strapless, teal chiffon number with a tropical print.

“I like styles that don’t go out of style,” she says. Her designs today are still simple, often in vibrant prints, very girly, and timeless. Ten years later, she is still working on her faithful Brother.

There are big plans in Aquino’s future, including the opening of a design house in Barrio Logan. For many San Diego artists, Barrio Logan is the next hot spot, like North Park or South Park. She says she hopes her storefront will be a place that’s comfortable enough for customers to come and hang out—and to talk about fashion. Eventually, she’d like to branch out with design houses in San Francisco and New York.

The most important thing Aquino hopes people will associate with her work is the precision and quality of her craftsmanship.

“People don’t sew anything themselves anymore,” she says. “They sketch a design and take it to someone else to sew it. My dresses will never lose a stitch.”

Details »
  • Name: Michelle Aquino
  • Address: www.mdotdesignstudio.blogspot.com