Mattie Gonzales on Style, New Skin Magazine and Being a Swan

Mattie Gonzales spotted at 30th and Larimer streets.
Mattie Gonzales spotted at 30th and Larimer streets. Photo by Mauricio Rocha
For some artists, fashion is as essential as oxygen, a way to express their lifestyle and share their point of view with the world. Mattie Gonzales is one of them, a creative-about-town who is starting a Denver-based publication, New Skin Magazine, and is inspired by the swan as a spirit animal.

"I have a few spirit animals: wolves, swans and foxes," Gonzales explains. "I feel like in terms of my close friends and romances, I'm like a swan, because swans mate for life and are maternal and graceful. I feel very maternal for my loved ones. Wolves have a sense of independence and don't take no for an answer. They are protective and embody a wild sense of nature. Wolves stick to their pack. Swans are more feminine and wolves are more masculine. I am attracted to those animals. I have been attracted to those two animals my whole life. I think everyone has a guiding spirit that they can relate to their personality or sense of being."

After spotting Gonzales around town, we stopped to chat more about style, spirit animals and plans for the new magazine.

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Mauricio Rocha
Westword: What pronouns do you prefer to go by?

Mattie Gonzales: I would like my pronouns to be they/them, for sure. That being said, I’m she/her-leaning. I think people have so many ideas of what a woman or a man looks like. I've always been blessed to be told that my feminine warmth exudes in personality, and any time people gush and call me androgynous, I blush, and I always thought that was really cool. Any compliments I get referring to femininity always make me think back to hearing “Venus as a boy” as a young kid when I was like ten or eleven or something. It was this moment of, “Oh, yeah, okay, that's how I feel.” Not to compare myself to Venus in actuality, but Venus being a celestial body that is a representative embodiment of femininity. Hearing Björk play with that concept was a very empowering moment at a time that I felt so isolated and unsure of myself.

I think people can embody the sides to them they may feel afraid to. A lot of art-oriented people have embraced that throughout the centuries. I’d like to think one day freedom of identity can become mainstream and something that isn't considered different, wrong, fetishized or intriguing. Can it be as simple as our taste in ice cream?

What is your profession?

Profession is always so hard for me to answer, but as of now, creative director of New Skin Magazine, dancer, model, event intern, DJ and student. I never thought I would do almost everything I always dreamed of doing. I think it's so important for people to try new things and really figure out how they thrive. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to settle for one thing or to limit yourself. You want to do it all? Do it all. You want to focus on one thing? Focus on one thing. Find what feels right for you, because no one else can.

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Photo by Mauricio Rocha
What are your goals and dreams?

My dream profession, besides what I’m doing now, would have to be acting. It took a long time to admit it to myself, but I think embodying characters is so fun and interesting. I would love to be in a TV show like Riverdale, The 100 or something. In a parallel universe, acting in a [David] Lynch film would complete me, but I’m probably too modern-looking. But, hey, a girl should dream, right? Otherwise the idea of owning a teahouse in the countryside always sounded amazing, though you'd have to live close enough to a town so you'd actually get customers.

Who or what inspires your personal style?

Inspiration usually comes conceptually for me. I think you can express so much in little details, nods to this era or that. People who have inspired my personal style include Buffy, Björk, Tilda Swinton, Nico, David Sylvian and many others. Other than that, I am lucky to have so many friends with great personal style who always show up and show face. I truly feel it's a time of great self-expression, and that always inspires me to play with new styles and new things. I’m privileged to be able to wear random stuff and get such positive feedback. I’d like to think that the more I and other people wear whatever they want, the more that will spread to places where it is more conservative.

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The character on this T- shirt is Little Tamago, or Egg Boy. "I got the shirt at a convention a long time ago," says Gonzales.
Photo by Mauricio Rocha
What are some fashion houses, brands and designers you admire? 

Fashion houses I admire can go on and on, and maybe one day I'll have a piece from each designer that I like. Definitely at the top of the list come Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Iris Van Harpen. That being said, I won't deny some current Alessandro Michele Gucci; there's a satin track jacket with a painting of a castle, and it's lovely. An Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking Suit with some Chanel shades and classic Louis Vuitton heels would be a knockout combo, and would honestly be the ultimate, though very, very bourgeoisie. I sort of laugh that my taste is either thrift store or designer. It's like the in-between stuff is always a no-go for me.

What is your favorite color?

My favorite color seems to change a lot. Right now it's black and white, but when it boils down to it, I think soft pink is my favorite. It's calming, and I actually consider it a neutral along with beige, black and cream.

What is your favorite accessory?

Favorite accessories would be any piece given to me by someone. I've been wearing a ring my mother gave me for years. There’s also a laurel ring my best friend gifted me. Any item gifted, whether it's a leotard, a scarf or whatever, there is just something that feels good about wearing it when someone gave it to you. You put it on, and you’re like, "Oh, yeah, this person is pretty much going through the day with me."

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This black blouse was gifted by "my two lovely lovely sisters, Pax and Paradise," says Gonzales. "I think they got it at Buffalo Exchange."
Photo by Mauricio Rocha
What is your jam of the moment?
Favorite song right now would probably be “Almost,” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Classic. Also just been into a lot of ambient, maybe due to winter. Aphex Twin, Christian Loeffler, William Basinski, Burial and Four Tet, Hiroshi Yoshimura. In the car I love to jam out to bands like Citizen, Mass, Basement, Ed Schrader, some throwback My Chemical Romance, The Killers, Circa Survive and Gleemer. There will always be a little post-rock-emo side to me that will be a diehard for the genre.

What is your favorite film?

by Luc Besson, same director of Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, with Milla Jovovich. Upon further thought, a lot of [Luc Besson] films inspire my aesthetics. In Angel-A, the main character wears a long cocoon coat, while the other towers over him in a little black dress and pumps. I like to mix characters together and wear shoes with height and a cocoon coat, play with those concepts of masculine and feminine. No one can doubt young Natalie Portman’s style in Leon: The Professional; you can't go wrong with a basic tee and a choker. If you happen to be carrying around a plant, that just solidifies your cool factor. Also, cyberpunk will be forever timeless; for me, the clothes in any cyberpunk film are just perfection.

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Photo by Mauricio Rocha
Where do you like to shop?

Typically, I will shop for pieces online. Depop is a gem. Otherwise, thrift stores: Clothes with history in them always win. I try not to go to stores that mass-produce, but I've been given a good crop top from stores like that. I won't shame people for where they do or don't shop. For me, it's just better to buy used pieces; it sticks it to the big companies that mass-produce and underpay workers.

What is your style mantra?

When I dress up, I think I'll base an outfit off a movie I've just seen or makeup off a character. I'll start with playing a ton of pop music, then go into a soundtrack. I'll be listening to Miki Matsubara, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu or the Pillows or whatever, and then play a song or two from, say, the Black Swan soundtrack, mid- all the hyper dance music and recite, “It's my turn, it's my turn, it's my turn” while I apply black eyeliner. And then when it's done, I just whisper, “I was perfect.” I've done that on numerous occasions. It's really quite fun. Getting ready can be the funnest part of the night with the right people and the right music.

Like Gonzales, always share your true colors and never be afraid to embody your spirit animal, Denver.

Stay up to date with Mattie Gonzales on Instagram here.
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Mauricio Octavio Rocha graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English writing and a minor in cinema studies; He has been writing about fashion and style for Westword since 2012. Rocha also writes songs for his music and art project, VULGAR FEVER.
Contact: Mauricio Rocha