Photography by Jeiroh
The name’s Zaldy Goco, but drop the Goco. The designer has gone by solely by his first name since high school—a wise well-beyond-his-years step in personal branding. And while thanks to his work, most associate his name with the legendary RuPaul, the Filipino designer has a resume that goes far beyond that.
Zaldy was born in Cheshire, Connecticut and grew up in the Bay Area. His interest in fashion stemmed from his grandmother, with whom he would discuss looks from the Cher show when she visited from the Philippines. Zaldy's New York life started in 1988 with his first apartment in Park Slope. He studied at Parsons and later at the Fashion Institute of Technology. His feminine features made him a good candidate for drag, and later a runway favorite, modeling for designers like Thierry Mugler, Vivienne Westwood, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Despite this success, Zaldy’s passion always lied in working behind the scenes. While he had been creating and wearing his own looks since he was a teenager, and designing for fellow drag queen Lady Miss Kier of music group Dee-Lie, it wasn’t until he met RuPaul that further opportunity presented itself.
The two met in the late ‘80s at New York City’s La Palace de Beauté nightclub in Union Square. Zaldy’s first design for Rupaul was for her “Supermodel” video that played a role in the drag queen’s expansion outside of the nightclub since. Zaldy has been designing for RuPaul for decades, and these days, he’s responsible for creating Ru’s looks for Drag Race—14 dresses per season, in addition to nine or 10 for All-Stars, and both promo and finale looks. Zaldy’s design work on the show has brought him two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
But the designer’s work doesn’t stop at drag queen glam. Zaldy’s eponymous line debuted in 2002. He collaborated with Gwen Stefani on her clothing line L.A.M.B. from 2004 to 2007, and has also worked as a costume designer for Britney Spears, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson. He even designed for three productions of Cirque du Soleil.
In describing the New York way of dressing, Zaldy notes that "even though we've evolved, it's still black. Black, black, black." Meanwhile, his own designs are simultaneously tailored and bohemian, with an elaborately ornate edge. His clothing is meant to be as extraordinary as the personalities he works with and is reminiscent of a time in fashion when designers made creations they saw in their wildest dreams. In the dwindling world of designers that dare to play out these dreams, Zaldy remains a standout.
Zaldy describes New York as "changing, always on the move." To him, a perfect night in the city is staying in with his husband, and his go-to New York food is a really good burger. What's left on his New York City bucket list? "Go to the top of the Statue of Liberty," he said. We tend to stay away from the city's tourist traps, but with Zaldy's impeccable taste, we're willing to do what we must.
Hair: Carolyn Riley @ De Facto Inc using Kerastase
Makeup: Andie Markoe-Byrne @ Bryan Bantry using Chanel
Photo Director: Jennifer Rosenblum
Production Assistant: Mina Erkli
Location: Root Studios
Catering: Red Hook Catering