In a recent post, I described how many burlesque performers collaborate very closely with designers, and named corsetier Garo Sparo as one of our favorite collaborators. Happily, Garo consented to an interview and allowed me the honor of taking some photos in his studio while he fit me for the "Parade of Muses" in his Sparkle and Cinch Fashion Show coming up on February 6.
Can you give me a little history about Garo Sparo? How did you begin
designing? What do you like most about it?
I grew up around design. My grandparents were experts in bead-work
and lace making. We always had sewing machines in the house while I
was growing up. I began learning clothing construction from a Native
American costume designer in Long Island when I was 11, which led to
designing my first dress at 14. My teenage years were spent making
hats that were sold in local shops and night clubs and making clothes
for myself and friends. I think what I enjoy most about designing is
that it allows me to make a living doing something I love, and I
constantly get to work with inspiring and talented people.
Photos on the wall in Garo's Studio.
You're in the East Village where so much of the current burlesque
scene exists or originated. How is the East Village scene for you?
The East Village is an amazing place, I live and work here and I would
not want to be anywhere else. I think it is the only place in
Manhattan where I could really feel inspired. There is always a strong
gathering of colorful and creative people here to work with.
How did you become involved with burlesque costuming?
It began with working with * BOB * in the nineties. I always loved
doing costuming, especially that which is functional and involves
layering and mechanics, which burlesque often does. It also made sense
that I would do burlesque work because corsetry is one of my
Bambi in her shrimp costume at Exotic World, Helendale, CA.
Tell me about your relationships with two or three of your burlesque
Bambi: I love working with Bambi because her costumes are always
transformations of her own personality into some kind of creature; a
character that represents who she is by being totally off the wall and
quirky but still beautiful and elegant. Her personality is embedded in
the outfit and the costume is used to portray it.
Bunny Love- The purpose of Bunny Love's costumes is, and the reason I
love working with her, is that they are created to abstract her true
motivation. I once heard * BOB * describer her as "a playboy bunny
with rabies," which is absolutely true. We always design things that
are very sweet and girly, super feminine and even prim and proper. It
is always to counter the truly subversive and bizarre nature of her
* BOB *: * BOB *'s personality is framed by her costumes. She is not
necessarily transformed into another character, but they serve to
honor and present her own beauty and character and represent her
distinctive taste and aesthetic.
How involved in the process of designing the costume or act do you become?
I become very involved in the creation of the entire piece. I discuss
with the performer what will happen in the act. I then break it down
so that the costume completely works with the choreography, and allows
everything that will take place to happen in the smoothest, most
beautiful manner possible.
As a costumer and performer I often find that the costume dictates the
choreography, or the other way
around. Do you find yourself getting involved in the acts? Do you go to see
them after you make the
I always dissect the whole act so that everything will happen in a
gorgeous succession. I design the costume, but also work with the
performer on the choreography so that everything works together as a
whole. Usually the performers that work with me perform acts that are
particularly "costume –centric," so the outfit and choreography go
hand in hand. I am always busy but I do try to see my clients perform
when I can.
What has been your most challenging experience with creating a burlesque
costume? Your most satisfying? Your favorite costume?
I think the most challenging outfit to date was probably Bunny Love's
pink cake. It has to go from being a 5'8 tall cake to falling onto
ground into a pile of ruffles in a matter of seconds. This was
definitely quite a challenge mechanically.
It's hard for me to choose favorites but one costume that was very
satisfying was Bambi's shrimp costume. It was very complete and
extremely layered. It included something like over 10 elements of
accessories and layers, and to top it off she had a lemon wedge that
squeezed glitter juice all over her body! All the coordinating
elements that created a beautiful whole made it very satisfying to
design and create.
Another one of my favorites was Bambi's blacklight snail costume. I love it so
much because she actually could get inside of it. It was beautiful on
its own or under blacklight. It was extremely visually pleasing and
also very layered and complex.
A sketch in Garo's studio.
What's next for the fabulous Garo Sparo?
I am doing a fashion show in February 2008 that I am very excited about. I
will be showcasing my recent work and many of my burlesque and drag
clients will be present to show off things I have made for them. I am
very happy in my career at this point and am working to keep doing
what I'm doing but on a larger scale. I want to continue to do
couture, and costuming for film, events, burlesque and all types of
performance. I love doing all of these things and I want to keep
growing and expanding.
More photos from Garo's studio