News & Runway

Costume Designer Marco Marco Talks Designing VMA ‘Black Widow’ Looks and That Controversial Selena Gomez Bollywood Outfit

tFS: Where do you draw inspiration for your looks?

MM: I was educated as a costume designer. I think fashion is great because it goes inside itself and creates new narratives. Costume designers are taught to find those narratives and perfect them by looking at where the person that you’re costuming is coming from. I get a lot of my inspiration from the people I’m dressing. That’s how I’m able to handle multiple artists at once and not feel like I necessarily give them the same thing. I try and create a new aesthetic for each artist, and I try to keep that aesthetic with that artist. There’s also a lot of inspiration that comes from the storyline from a music video or live performance. There’s always a world that you’re trying to bring the audience into. I get a lot of inspiration there. When it comes to my fashion shows, well, that’s just me going crazy. I just get to do whatever I want! Every time we work with an artist, we’ll present 20 ideas, different versions and possibilities of what could be. Of course, we have to decide on one, but the rest of them are still dreams that we have, and they wind up becoming incorporated into my final vision, which is usually my fashion show.

tFS: In your line of work, there aren’t any really “typical” days, but what do your days usually entail?

MM: On a “normal” day at the studio, I usually start getting calls from my business partner at nine telling me to wake up! I never learned how to wake up in the morning, so I usually start with a barrage of phone calls from him. Eventually, I get to the studio and the team is already here working on whatever it was we started the day before. The rest of my day is usually a list of things I need to tick off. It starts usually with new projects that we have to sketch. We come up with concepts, do rough sketches, those get scanned into the computer and rendered there. We have pattern makers working on designs that just got approved, we’ve got craftspeople working on the projects that have been approved. Pattern, design and production: Those are three things that are always happening here in kind of a rotation. My job is to walk around in circles like a madman making sure everything gets done to the specifications of the artist and to my level of taste. I’ve also started an underwear line.

tFS: Tell us a little more about that. Because we look at your aesthetic and it’s like, is this underwear you wear outside of your pants?

MM: It’s underwear as outerwear for sure. We started an underwear line for men. It’s something I wanted to do to be a bigger part of my community. I love fashion, I love theater, but I’m also a gay man and I have gay friends, and I work on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I make a lot of stuff for drag queens. I have friends who work in nightlife; go-go dancers, underwear models. It’s all part of my world outside the music industry. I really wanted to do something that responded to those experiences that I have in life. It just made sense. Underwear is something that I’ve always made for my friends. It’s just one little thing that I can make crazy, and design wild underwear for guys. The first time I thought of it as something serious was when I was first starting on RuPaul’s Drag Race. They wanted boys to kind of pose as Vanna Whites, except in underwear. So, we created this line for the show. It got such a huge response. There wasn’t a day going by where we weren’t getting calls to the studio asking where they could purchase. It wasn’t a real thing yet, but we felt like eventually we should just make something real out of it. It’s great because it’s a whole other side of the industry that I haven’t been a part of. Plus, it’s always fun to have a hot guy in underwear running around!

tFS: Indeed. Now that you mention crazy men’s undergarments, what do you think of the swimsuit slings the TOWIE boys Bobby Norris and Harry Derbidge were wearing in Marbella earlier this year?

MM: I don’t know! [laughing] I try not to think about those too much! No, I think it’s cool. We’re in a time socially that men are able to explore things like that. I remember just 10 years ago, American Apparel just opened up and hadn’t really made the mark on society yet that it has today, and you couldn’t even find men’s underwear in different colors. It was black, white, gray. I think that spoke to what people believed was what men should be wearing. I think men have had a bit of a renaissance when it comes to peacocking as far as fashion’s concerned. I think it’s cool. Girls have always had a million options when it comes to their wardrobe and men have not necessarily had that opportunity yet to explore that stuff. 

tFS: Exactly, especially now when it seems like men are free to wear more “out there” outfits without people making assumptions about who they are.

MM: Absolutely. I think that’s part of why for our runway show last year, we didn’t use any women, even though I was showing a lot of what would be considered womenswear. I live a life that is filled with a wide array of personalities and gender types. But ultimately, I’m dealing with people who were assigned male at birth, whether they’re ultra masculine or more feminine or identify as women and have been through that transition. I wanted to do a show with these people who I think embody so much power and confidence and are unafraid to leave what other people would consider conforming to society in order to represent themselves in the way they choose. It’s a new world as far as what you’re capable of creating and making into a viable product that doesn’t necessarily fit into a certain box. Women comment on my Instagram and they want the women’s versions of the men’s underwear. Some are even buying them as they are. We’re starting to lose all these preconceived notions that you have to be aesthetically OK with what everyone else decided years before you were born. 

tFS: Do you think fashion is going in a more gender-neutral direction?

MM: I think the lines are definitely blurring. I think like you said, there are many types of clothing that are made for a certain type of body, but I know a lot of drag queens who live their life as men, but perform as women, and those bodies are indistinguishable. Heather Cassils, she’s transitioning F to M, she has an incredibly strong body. She’s a physical trainer, she builds her body, and again, it’s indistinguishable. She probably wears men’s clothes better than I do. Even those lines are blurring, so I think that’s part of why fashion is able to do that because it really isn’t so black and white anymore.