Who Is Gary "Garo Sparo" Spampinato? New Details About The 'Project Runway' Contestant

Photo: bravo
Who Is Gary "Garo Sparo" Spampinato? New Details About The 'Project Runway' Contestant

Since its March 14th premiere on Bravo, Project Runway has shown just how talented people can be when they are passionate about a subject. And for these contestants, they eat, sleep, and breathe fashion and design. Though four contestants have been eliminated so far, it’s been a joy to see what inspires them, their unique tastes, and where they came from.

The 17th season features new judges — Karlie Kloss, Elaine Welteroth, and Brandon Maxwell — and a new mentor, Christian Siriano, who won season four. But though Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum aren’t on this season, returning to the judging panel is Nina Garcia. And the prize this season is even more incredible: $250,000, a feature in Elle Magazine, $50,000 for the designers to put towards their own studio, and a mentorship with the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

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But what’s most curious about this series is how the designers came to develop a passion for fashion, and how they got their start. Who is Gary "Garo Sparo" Spampinato? Though he’s a “Master Corsetier,” what can we learn about his style, career, and what he learned from being on this season?

1. His friends created his nickname.

“Garo Sparo,” the nickname he goes by, is what his friends call him. Garo is a derivative of his first name Gary, while the second came from a random suggestion. Someone told him his designs were “so powerful, you should be ‘Garo Sparo.’” Sparo means “shot” in Italian, as in “gun shot.” According to Spampinato, “I thought it would be perfect.”

2. He’s originally from North Carolina.

Though he attended high school in North Carolina, once he graduated, he attended the state university there. However, he left before graduating. “I was in my final year, one semester left, and I’d taken a trip to New York and ran into someone involved with Absolut Vodka. They had an alt fashion week at the time,” and they then offered to sponsor one of his collections of work for an upcoming runway show.

Just 21 years old at the time, he said, “You learn the hard way you're not a star instantaneously. You get this opportunity, but you have to parlay it to the next thing and the next thing.” His collection was featured in the Absolut Alternative Fashion Week. In 1995, he moved to New York City permanently.

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3. His family inspired him to go into design.

Garo Sparo isn't his real name!

His immigrant mother and grandmother taught him how to sew, and his family had a lacemaking company based in Sicily. But once his family moved to America, his father began working in the Garment District in Manhattan, while his mother “took custom orders for anything she could sew.”

Spampinato says, “There was always a sewing room in our house. I was the only kid in the family allowed in there.” His brother, Paul, passed away in a plane crash in 2000, but he still inspires the designer: “Paul was my hero... a huge part of my life and who I am as a person. He cheered me on as a young designer.”

4. His style is a combination of concepts.

He draws his inspiration from a variety of sources.

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Though Spampinato specializes in couture, bridal, and corsetry, he also designs for performers, commercials, and films, who require special effects-based work and sculptural concepts. He’s now known for his conceptual fashion and designs, while also creating garments that “pay homage to the past, combining classical compositions such as 1950s glamour and Victorian silhouettes with contemporary styles.”

5. He’s had quite the career so far.

Based in New York City, he created the company Garo Sparo, an American couture design house, and opened its boutique in 2000. He’s since taken on clientele, specifically drag and burlesque icons including Angie Potani, Miss Understood, Hedda Lettuce, World Famous *BOB*, and Sequinette.

Daphne Guinness, who is the former muse of Alexander McQueen, is also one of his clients, as well as Madonna. He’s the current resident designer for New York production company Screaming Queens Entertainment.

6. It’s not his first time appearing on television.

Before appearing on Project Runway, Garo Sparo was featured on his own show.

In 2011, his show, Unleashed by Garo, debuted on the Sundance Channel. It’s a six-episode series about the designer and the world of fashion. Each episode featured three clients visiting his studio, and their personal requests, including stagewear and brides.

But as for appearing on Project Runway, Spampinato said, “I need press as much as anyone else. Everyone needs something, no matter where you are in life. I thought it was the perfect time, so why not? I went for it. It was an amazing experience. Everyone on there is very talented. It was a true competition and I love to compete.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.