It’s 8 AM Tuesday morning during New York Fashion Week. The first floor of the Metropolitan Event space—filled with beautifully adorned sponsor stations from Skechers and Row NYC to Not Your Mothers and Day Owl Rose—is eerily silent as it awaits the hundreds of fashion connoisseurs seeking the thrill of the runway and all the allure it brings with it. Upstairs is a completely different scene. Hair and makeup stations take over the room, as dozens of artists swiftly work to transform the models into Bravo’s Project Runway finalist and designer Garo Sparo’s vision of Cosmic artistry. Racks of Garo’s beaded, tulle, metallic and corseted designs are lined up — surrounded by his talented team and dressers who, along with myself, are vigilantly organizing the looks according to their designated model.
Interspersed into the scores of people working at record pace, Bravo’s production crew has camera’s rolling to capture behind the scenes for an episode of The Real Housewives of New York and Tinsley Mortimer, as she walks the finale. Her cast-mates will be in attendance to support and cheer her on. I turn to my right and spot MiMi Taö, Project Runway’s first ever transgender model, who is also walking the show. Designer Knight and Hammer stands by with his custom-made Hummingbird earrings and Garo’s right hand man Troy and I pair the crystalized eyewear, by Material Memorië, to each of the models looks.
It’s crunch time! As the clock ticks on, and show time is nearing, models begin to line up to do a run through. Enter the stunning Yasmine Petty and Amanda Lepore—just two of the celebrity models walking the show. Outside the curtains, hundreds of chairs are lined up topped with swag bags filled with sponsor goodies. The music starts playing as the backdrop (by Zoë Wolkoff) comes alive—illuminated with brilliant cosmic images and hues. Paparazzi have already begun to claim their spots at the end of the runway with placeholders. The energy is electric and spirits are high. This is the day everyone has been working countless hours to make happen.
Once the run through is perfected—it’s back behind the curtains for final touchups and to get into wardrobe. I am working with over 15 dressers for whom I am assigning to models, to assist them in lacing up corsets (not an easy task), zip up dresses and delicately slip on Garo’s signature crystal fishnet gloves. There’s a minor glitch: one of the ballgown’s has lost its beading. Garo’s team is on hand to swiftly rectify the issue. Tinsley has just arrived, already hair and makeup ready, and the Bravo team is swarming her. An employee from RADO Watches has been patiently waiting to get her turn with Tinsley to fit her wrist. The custom crystal embellished Skecher sneakers and Knight and Hammer crown are also standing by. I sneak a peek around the curtain and I can feel the energy growing strong as attendees take their seats in anticipation. The paparazzi holding zone is crammed with photographers with cameras pointed and ready to capture the amazing designs. There is nothing quite like this moment and I pause for a second to enjoy the glory of it all. It’s SHOWTIME!
Photographer Marta Chodur
Known for his corsetry, tulle, crystal embellished designs and costumes, Garo Sparo has been dressing celebrities, including Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Amanda Lepore and Miz Cracker, for over a decade. Recently, Garo was cast in Bravo’s Project Runway and due to his incredible talent and expertise, finished in the top three. Garo and I have worked together over the last ten years on a plethora of production projects and I now consider him not only a colleague but a friend. Working behind the scenes for his NYFW S/S 2020 Runway Show was exhilarating, and an experience I will never forget.
Below is my exclusive interview with the man himself.
What inspired you to become a fashion designer? How long have you been designing?
I was inspired to become a fashion designer at the age of 5 when I started sewing. Sewing has always been a part of my life and my family. I loved spending time in the sewing room, it allowed me to expand my mind in the medium of fabric and sewing. My mother always had fashion magazines in the house, as well as watching movies from the golden age of Hollywood with my grandmother. I knew by the time I was 11 that I wanted to pursue a career as a fashion designer and designed my first dress for my friend Debra at that age.
What is the inspiration behind your designs?
The inspiration for my designs always starts with enhancing the form in anyway. Even if it’s a diaphanous piece, I always like emphasis on the waist which is also why modern corsetry is a main part of my collection. I am inspired by people as well as the mixing of different eras and looking into the future of what fashion will be.
You were recently on Project Runway, what was that like?
Participating in Project Runway was an amazing experience, with that being said, it was also the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I’ve been in business for 20+ years, since I was 19. I’ve always been dedicated to my business and surrounded by people supporting me and telling my work was great. To be judged on my work on a day to day basis was a difficult pill to swallow, but in the end was extremely rewarding. It made me stop and think and know that I could gain a lot of knowledge from these industry professionals for the rest of my career and gave me an amazing platform to showcase my work.
How do you relate to past and present fashion trends?
I relate to past and present fashion trends in lots of ways because I draw a lot of my inspiration from the past, fashion always has a cycle that comes back around and leads to the future. I can relate to present fashion trends because fashion is changing so much! Drag queens on TV, incredibly costumed series and movies and people are finally realizing that the future is now, and I’m all about the future.
Describe to me your typical day.
I wake up in the morning, get on my Peloton and ride anywhere between 30 mins to an hour then have a Keto breakfast, as I’m on the Keto diet, which I truly recommend. Then I suit up in my working outfit of the day and I walk from my apartment in the East village to clear my head before arriving at my studio in the garment district around 10:30 am. Next, I usually have a quick meeting with my team about what’s on the agenda and attack the day from there with client fittings, appointments, as well as designing for clients all around the world thanks to modern technology and video chats. I usually end my day somewhere around 8:30-10 PM and will meet friends for dinner or just chill out at home for the remainder of the night.
What plans do you have for your brand?
To make my brand even more accessible to consumers and really take the world by storm and go global since I already have people asking me for my work from around the globe.
You recently participated in fashion week and stepped outside the norm with your models. What was your motivation behind that?
My motivation was and always has been to dress all sizes genders, all walks of life, etc. because my clothes are for everyone and I wanted to drive that point even further home.
Tell me something about your target audience.
That is hard to say because I’ve dressed anyone from infants to someone who’s into advanced style at any age or gender. I pride myself on my clothes being for everyone.
Do you have any plans for improving the fashion industry?
Yes absolutely. I plan on breaking down the walls that have been put up—that box in the fashion industry and do things my own way, a new way! It’s not a club—it’s a revolution and it’s time for people to express who they are on the inside by how they dress and I’m here to help them do that.
What was the inspiration behind your runway show?
It was a gender fluid cosmic vibe inspired by all the colors and sparkle of the cosmos, but not taking itself too seriously at the same time.
I’m sure designing a line for fashion week is very stressful. Can you describe the process?
The beginning is not stressful at all, because you’re just working on freeing your mind and delving into what message you want to tell the world. It gets crazy in the days leading up to the show, all the glamour is gone, you’re scrambling to cast models, resize garments and edit the collection to make the biggest impact possible. As long as that’s all taken care of, the day of show should be relatively easy and you can sit back and enjoy watching your finished collection grace the runway.
You had some amazing transgendered influencers, Yasmine Petty and Amanda Lepore, and celebrities walking, as well as the drag queen Miz Cracker, can you tell me about your relationship with them and why they wanted to be in the show?
Amanda is so unbelievably fabulous and was my first client ever in the city. We’ve been collaborating on her looks ever since, so it felt only right to make her a whole new custom look and have her walk in my show! Yasmine is another dear friend of mine and muse. She is truly stunning and I couldn’t have been more proud to have her sparkle in my show! Miz Cracker is someone I’ve dressed since her debut to the world on RuPaul’s drag race season 10, in her neon giant bow dress. Since then, I’ve cherished my relationship with her and adore designing for her shows and photoshoots. I think they wanted to be a part of the show because visibility for the trans community is so important, especially in fashion, and they wanted to show their support to me and my brand. I have always stood by the LGBTQ community and I wanted these gorgeous people in particular to be the cosmic muses of the show and be breathtaking on the runway! I was honored to have these icons present themselves on my runway.
Will we be seeing you again next year at New York Fashion Week?
Only time will tell! But I would love to show another collection with Klarna Style360. They were so wonderful to work with and made my job as the designer so easy and stress free! I am already dreaming about my next collection.
A lot of your pieces are customs made-to-order. Will we be seeing your line in clothing boutiques or department stores any time soon? Where can readers purchase your designs?
I am in talks with a few boutiques and stores to get my line out there and am selling my collection on my webstore with Klarna as a financing option as well! You can find my new collection Cosmic Mind: An Evolution at garosparo.com
Photo Credits: Marta Chodur
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