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Zaldy Goco Talks Collaborating With RuPaul, Designing for Reality TV

Three-time Emmy nominee (and last year’s winner) for his work designing RuPaul’s outfits on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Zaldy Goco’s goal is to “maintain the largeness of what we do” season over season. While he works with a team, for this year’s milestone 10th season he got hands-on and made a few of the gowns personally. “It was like I was doing this amazing art project,” he says.

How closely do you work with Ru on the designs?

We just established this identity and, really, trust. We kind of refer to our work as being telepathic — because Ru has no idea what I’m doing. I don’t do sketches … I have a few clients that are just so close to my heart that they know they want me to do it and then they trust that what’s coming is going to be really great.

What is most important in translating the ideas for your designs to your team?

I have my own atelier in New York, and it’s a real atelier atmosphere where everything is nurtured in the space. We meet together with my people, we look at fabrics, we discuss what we think could be really great, and then I sort of guide the whole process of which way to take each fabric for each person’s strengths. … Most people have worked for me for at least six years, so we have a really good dialogue and understanding of what each project demands, and everyone knows what the Ru project demands is bigger, better, sparklier, shinier.

What special considerations have to be made when designing for TV?

They use so much lighting that there could be fabrics — and I’ll just use glitter as an example — [that] could look kind of cheap in your hands but on the stage and under lighting it looks like a million dollars. … There’s certain things that are chosen specifically because we know the kind of lighting on that set.

Do you design gowns to be episode-specific or interchangeable depending on how Ru feels?

They’re absolutely, completely 100% interchangeable. The competitor queens, they have to stick to the rules, and I ask to see what the challenges are going to be because sometimes there’s a great challenge that really demands a great, special, specific thing for Ru. But normally Ru is exempt from any of that stuff, so what I really set out to do is create a great wardrobe for Ru for the season, and she can decide what she wants to wear for the episodes.

What is most important in designing a gown that will make Ru stand out among the queens’ big, weekly designs?

Ru is the real iconic personality that transcends. She could sit there in a T-shirt and she would stand out. I try not to let that get in my head because the queens are doing bigger, and it’s not always going to be the best option for Ru. So I definitely try to do different things.

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