Those outside the fashion industry might not know Zaldy Goco's name, but chances are they know his work. After studying at FIT and Parsons in Los Angeles, the Connecticut-born, San Francisco-bred designer spent a few years walking the runway (for Vivienne Westwood, Theirry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier) before being tapped as the personal stylist to nightlife maven, Suzanne Bartsch, who was taken with the fanciful creations the cross-dressing Zaldy had whipped up for himself.
This led to design and image-consulting gigs with Donna Karan, RuPaul, Shiseido and MAC Cosmetics, and in 2002, Zaldy (who goes by his first name professionally) launched his own eponymous collection, which became an instant hit with fashion-forward celebs including Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Parker Posey and Gwen Stefani, the latter of whom tapped Zaldy to co-design her line L.A.M.B. when it first launched in 2004 (and the two are still close; we ran into him backstage at Stefani's L.A.M.B. presentation at Milk Studios last month). Throughout it all, Zaldy continued to design stage wear for Rufus Wainwright, the Scissors Sisters, Melissa Auf der Maur, Mary J. Blige, Mick Jagger and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few.
The multi-tasking designer shuttered his namesake line in 2006 and left L.A.M.B. in 2007 to concentrate on his costume design career, which has been going great guns, thankyouverymuch, and which brought him back into the public eye in a very big way when it was revealed that he had designed the costumes for Michael Jackson's final "This Is It" tour and was the man behind Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour looks.
So what's he up to right this minute? "There's a lot of music this year," the laid-back designer told us. "I am working on the designs now for the Scissor Sisters new album which comes out very soon, I'm designing Rufus Wainwright's look for his upcoming tour, there are a couple of music projects in Japan that I can't say too much about - but I'm excited to be back in Tokyo."
He's also in talks to costume his first feature film, is designing the Met Ball gown for his pal, Lisa Maria Falcone and is "very seriously contemplating" relaunching his own label. "Lets see what happens this year!" he enthused.
We can't wait! In the meantime, The Fashion Informer's Lauren David Peden caught up with the (still multitasking) creative genius right before New York Fashion Week to talk music, memories and Michael Jackson (who knew the King of Pop was king as a pop, too?).
What's your favorite time of day?
I love the early morning. I love the light and the quiet.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Steel cut oatmeal with raw honey, cinnamon and soy with strong English tea.
When was the last time you did karaoke, and what did you sing?
As a matter of fact, last week! I opened the night with On the WIngs of Love, which really set the bar for sheer nerve - a couple years ago you wouldn't have been able to drag me to karaoke! My parents had three machines in the house including a waterproof one in the shower so I was terrorized by karaoke as a child. Now I won't let go of the mike and I will be your back-up singer whether you want me to or not.
What's the one beauty/grooming aid you can't live without?
My Japanese hairbrush by Vess is the best for my hair. I have three: One in my gym bag, one in my travel bag and one at home.
Favorite Valentine's Day memory?
My favorite memory is meeting and making out with my boyfriend Dmitry for like two hours at a party. It's not something I do - making out with strangers at parties - but it just happened. It was kind of like a dream sequence in a film; nothing else existed in that moment except for him and me and we knew then we would be together (that was in 2007).
What would people be surprised to learn about Michael Jackson?
During our time together we did fittings wherever MIchael was rehearsing. One time it got moved to his home in Bel Air and I had the pleasant surprise of meeting all of the kids. Blanket was pacing back and forth in front of the room until MIchael excused himself and came back with Prince MIchael, Paris and Blanket. They all just wanted to be wherever dad was since he was home and it was Sunday. I think people would be as surprised as I was to be able to watch MIchael parenting. At one point he realized that the kids all had a bag of Skittles and he said to Prince MIchael, "I said that you could share a bag of Skittles between the three of you, not have one bag each! And Prince MIchael, I know you're the ringleader here and you should know better, especially after what your dentist told you."
And Lady Gaga?
People would be surprised to know Gaga loves to wear sweats and Uggs when she's relaxing. Of course, this is a complete lie (Can you imagine? What a horrible monster vision that would be - Gaga in Uggs!). I have never met her in anything less than a 5" heel; even during a fitting it's one shoe off and on at a time. I think Gaga is a pretty open book when it comes to her passion for art, music, fashion and pop culture but I think people might be surprised that the passion is so deep it hurts. I think nothing would stop her from realizing a vision. People know her as a creative and visual force and have quickly learned that she is much more than a pop princess and that she can sing (she always sings live; how many performers do that?), she writes and plays the piano. I also think people would be surprised to know how smart and savvy she is in the business and direction of her career.
What's the best concert you've ever been to, and what made it so special?
This is a tough question. The White Stripes first shows in NYC were so simple and fresh sounding with Jack playing keyboard while holding his guitar and going back and forth between the two instruments in one song. It was incredible. And seeing Siouxsie Sioux live is amazing! Antony from Antony and the Johnsons singing in a small church in Toronto was ridiculous. But maybe the best fun was the Benicassim festival in Spain. I was with the Scissor Sisters whose outfits I designed for all of their videos, album packaging and tour during the time of their album Ta Dah. The festival goes on all day and night and they had the prime spot of 3 a.m. (at this festival that's a headlining spot). They were incredible and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were there and were amazing, Wolfmother was amazing. But the best is that backstage; there is a big swimming pool so everyone gets drunk, naked and wet!
I know you work with Rufus Wainwright a lot. Which of his songs is your favorite?
I can't choose just one there are so many! But these are some of my favorites:
Poses, because this was around the time we first became friends and it was the first video I did with him.
Old Whore's Diet. it's not one of my favorite favorite songs but, it is very special to me because it was composed, written for and performed live at my spring 2003 fashion show by Rufus and Antony, two of my favorite male vocalists - and this was the first time they sang together! Years later it ended up on his Want Two album.
Zebulon. This is a song from Rufus's forthcoming album All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu. I am designing the look for this new tour so I have been listening to the album a lot. I just got back from Montreal where I attended his mother Kate McGarrigle's funeral, and if a funeral can be amazing and beautiful this was. Rufus sang this song at the Notre Dame Basilica while playing the grand piano with his mother's coffin near him. The occasion, the lyrics and his voice echoing through the Basilica were otherworldly. Everyone was moved to tears. Rufus has always had an incredible voice but somehow it's become even stronger.
What magazines and newspapers do you read on a regular basis?
I love The New York Times, The New Yorker and National Geographic.
What's your favorite Fashion Week memory?
I started in fashion as a model and I was represented both as a boy and a girl model. Thierry Mugler was one of my idols and for his 20th anniversary show at the Cirque d'hiver he asked me to be in the show! It was so glamorous to be in Paris and having Mugler design an outfit for me and to walk the runway with the stars of the day - Linda, Naomi, Christy - was incredible. I remember sharing a car with Patty Hearst and Tippi Hedren to get our nail extensions done to Thierry's liking for the show; big long dragon nails. I walked for Jean Paul Gaultier that season, too. So that was my best Fashion Week ever!
Tell me about your pet(s).
No pets but I do have a bonsai palm that only a plant owner could love. It started out so cute and quickly turned into a monster. It's really kind of ugly but I tell it it's beautiful. I can't seem to let go of it.
Please look up from wherever you're answering these questions and describe what you see.
I'm in the TV room of my apartment looking up at a grouping of art that includes photos by Jen De Nike and Slava Mogutin, a portrait of Veruschka by Franco Rubartelli, paintings by Scott and Tyson Reeder, Adam Ansel (a young San Francisco artist) and Timothy Cummings, sculptures from the Swiss duo TONK, an 18th century ivory infanta head and hands in a glass Victorian box, a large rock shaped like an egg I picked up on the beach in Montauk with Rufus when he was renting the old Andy Warhol estate and a pair of Joe Colombo lamps.
What freaks you out?
The sound of flip flops. Shoes stored with the right shoe on the left side. People who use the phrase "doing God's work" as an excuse to do things beyond the law or exploit the essence of faith. Ignorance.
When are you happiest?
I am happiest when I get to create what I want and with the people I want. When I'm traveling and exploring the world with Dmitry. We both love to take pictures - a lot of pictures! - on several different types of cameras. We just got back from a 10-day trip through Eastern Europe and took over 8,000 photos.
Stay tuned for Random Questions For Jean-Pierre Braganza
photos courtesy of Zaldy