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Eleven years ago, former nightclub manager and South Florida's quickly rising luxury car wrapper, Michael Mogilewski, moved from his native Syracuse, New York, to Aventura because — as he puts it — he "lost a bet."
"It was one of those things," he states coyly, with a wise tone that communicates the 20/20 vision of hindsight and a touch of surprise that he took the plunge. However, the way Mogilewski tells it, the story sounds much less like a lost bet and more like the triumph of a good ol'-fashioned No Sissies Allowed dare.
"Everybody is always like, 'Let's go to Florida. Let's move to Florida.' I used to do a lot of design work for people down here. It was a late night out with the guys, and they were all saying, 'You'll never do it.' The next day, I picked up and headed south."
What followed for the designer and onetime nightlife impresario was a decade-plus of similarly fearless decision-making and big-time payoffs for his high-stakes gambling with the direction of his life.
From Aventura, Mike moved to Fort Lauderdale and eventually Pompano Beach. Creating fliers for e-music parties provided an organic-enough segue to crafting wraps — exorbitantly expensive wallpaper for luxury automobiles — and Mogilewski quickly hooked up with some of the finest customizers in the Sunshine State.
But in the spirit of the balls-to-the-wall impulse that led him down here in the first place, the craftsman knew he needed to be master of his own domain. Now he's started his own company, Signature Custom Wraps (on Facebook as Signature Customs FL), where he spends his days pimping rides, pumping jams, and building his empire of extravagant customization. But don't be fooled. His story is deeper than wrap.
New Times: Tell us about the origins of Signature Custom Wraps.
Michael Mogilewski: I left the company I was with before and hooked up with a great guy, Jordan, that owns motorgroup.com. He wholesales high-end cars: Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, you name it. He's got some very good clients. He's also into yachting and got me into not only wrapping cars but the interiors of cars. And boats. Big boats. We're talking 64 feet and above. Things like that. Guys and their toys. We're doing a 30-foot Intrepid, and we're wrapping the Jet Skis to match it. It's not just a wrap company. We do interiors, navigation systems, rims, wheels, suspension, lighting. For some people, changing those things means a lot.
You wrap cars for a living, which means that you must know some rappers. Drop some names!
I'm close with [Grammy Award-winning hip-hop producer] Jim Jonsin. He's a West Coast kid but likes to get his stuff wrapped here. [Jim] was just on the Warped Tour and should be in town at the end of the month. We're sitting down to design his tour bus and maybe one of his personal cars. In the past, I wrapped one of his race cars.
One of his race cars? Tell us about pimping that ride. What did he have on there?
Maybach Music, Planet Pit, which is Pitbull. It was a car that was a big collaboration. I made a good connection with those guys. We stay in touch. I follow them on their racing tour. I'm excited to get together with them and bang some stuff out.
What is an example of the gaudiest personalization you have ever had a client request?
It's hard to say gaudy in the wrap business, because everything is custom. We've done some crazy stuff. I recently wrapped two cars in matte orange. Matte orange is the new matte black.
Before tricking out luxury automobiles, you used to manage a nightclub, right?
I used to run a place in Syracuse called Liquid. That's where I got into house music, throwing raves and parties. It's good stuff to listen to, to kick back and relax.
What kind of music do you listen to in the shop?
I got a handful of kids working for me. So I listen to house, electronic, some dubstep, drum 'n' bass. I got some guys that love Jamaican music. It's definitely an eclectic crowd when we all get together.
So what's on your current playlist?
I'm a big Pandora fan. Swedish House Mafia. I was just listening to Skrillex.
Are you an Ultra Music Festival regular?
I've done a lot of signage for Ultra. [This year,] I was there one night and it was more for work than anything else.
Do you really get a chance to go out anymore?
I'm a single dad with two kids. I've got a soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter and a soon-to-be 3-year-old son. That's pretty much my life. My kids are really involved with my work. They both have iPads, and they both design. They come to the shop and help, meet a lot of my clients. They're very active in what I do.
Why do you think people like wrapping cars?
It's a luxury and a lifestyle. Everybody is different, everybody likes to be different, and in South Florida, everybody likes to stand out. They don't like having the same old silver Mercedes that everybody else does.