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Zaldy, 2004

WITH PARKER POSEY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TIMOTHY GREENFIELD-SANDERS




Club kid turned model turned pop couturier.
His clothes shout adventure and sexuality. Maybe that's why Zaldy has crafted one-of-a-kind pieces for just about every diva in pop music, from Foxy Brown to Britney Spears. Recently, he's turned his prodigious talent to a ready-to-wear collection for the rest of us. At his apartment/studio in the Chelsea Hotel (where legendary desugber Charles James once also resided), Zaldy dished with old friend Parker Posey.





PARKER: Today's not a good day for rollerblading.
ZALDY:
Did you rollerblade over here in the rain? People always tell me not to.

PARKER: It gets kind of slick with all the gasoline and dirt. But I wanted to get over here fast. What year did you move to New York,1980-something?
ZALDY:
1987, I think.

PARKER: '87, '88, and '89. That was such a great time in New York.
ZALDY:
It was pure nonsense. All you cared about was the way you looked, where you were going, and if it was free.

PARKER: And how you were dancing. Didn't you start out making clothes for Kier, the singer in Deee-lite?
ZALDY:
Yes, she was the first. I was also Kier's synchronized dancing partner for a few minutes. And around 1988, I began designing outfits for Susanne Bartsch. Susanne was producing parties all over the world — in Paris, Milan, Tokyo. Susanne would wear outfits that my friend Matthu and I were making.

PARKER: Susanne was like the queen bee and you were her sewing bee. [laughs]
ZALDY:
Exactly. Susanne would hire Matthu and me to be go-go dancers, but we were more like creatures. Every single penny we made from those parties would go into our outfits.

PARKER: You have such an imagination — it's amazing how you translate that into clothes.
ZALDY:
I would never go to an event unless I was totally dressed up — not necessarily in drag, but in my interpretation of drag, which was more androgynous. For one outfit, we made a bodysuit covered in hand-cut plastic mirrors — all you could see were my eyes and mouth. We called it the disco ball. We thought of our outfits as our art. We were really interested in the idea of transformation.

PARKER: When you're young you're just flying by the seat of your pants.
ZALDY:
Working with Susanne was great because it closed the world for me — it became a smaller, more accessible place. And it was through all the parties and travelling that I started modelling.

PARKER: What was your first job?
ZALDY:
Vicky Bartlett and Joshua Jordan suggested me for a Steven Klein shoot in Interview. But things really started to happen after I attended a Vivienne Westwood show in Paris wearing a showgirl-type outfit, with crystals dangling over my nipples. An editor at French Glamour saw me and asked me to call her. I didn't think much of it — just another random card. But I ended up shooting a ten-page story in the magazine, and that led to runway work and print campaigns.

PARKER: And then you did that Levi's commercial in 1995. That was such a scandal. You were in drag...
ZALDY:
...looking very hot! I hail a cab and the driver and I start flirting. Then I look into a compact and realize I have some stubble, so I take an electric razor out of my purse and start shaving. At that point, I couldn't grow stubble, so they had to glue hair to my chin. At the end of the commercial, the cab lets me off at my stop. It was banned in America, and in England they could only show it after nine at night.

PARKER: What was it like being in the middle of all that controversy?
ZALDY:
It was an insane moment. I found myself in Greece making personal appearances at all these Levi's stores. I would arrive dressed in drag in a New York City cab. Policemen would be there to hold back the crowds. I was offered a bunch of movie stuff. I had all kinds of castings and readings. But I was always sure that I wanted to make clothes — that was my passion. By the mid-90s I didn't feel like dressing up so much anymore. I started to focus more on making clothes for private clients.

PARKER: Where does that passion come from?
ZALDY:
I guess fashion was always there. My grandmother ran a school in the Philippines called the Paris Manila Fashion School. When I was a little boy, I used to watch Cher on television with her. She loved Cher so much, and so did I.

PARKER: I remember coming over here once and you were making a dress out of coffee beans.
ZALDY:
I can't believe you remember that!

PARKER: That was hard to forget.
ZALDY:
I had been hired by the Gevalia coffee company for an ad campaign. We decided to create a gorgeous beaded dress out of coffee beans. But a coffee bean has a flat and a convex side. We couldn't glue the flat side down to the chiffon, because we wanted the line on the flat side to show. So we had to sand down the rounded side of each bean individually. We spent a week sanding. The place smelled incredible.

PARKER: When you design your collection, do you ever worry that your work is too avant-garde?
ZALDY:
Sometimes. The clothes for my collection are very subdued, considering the lengths to which I can go! I just want to reach more people, to have a larger voice. I'm still trying to work it out. It's a business, and I'm not a business genius.

PARKER: I remember there was a guy from LA Gear at the party for your spring 2003 collection. I kept thinking, "Why won't he just ask you to design some tennis shoes and write you a check?"
ZALDY:
I know. You just have to do what you do and believe that it's happening at the pace that it needs to.

PARKER: You have to be optimistic.
ZALDY:
But it is difficult to live this crazy life, trying to develop my own business without an outside backer.

PARKER: I got to wear a lot of the clothes from your Fall 2003 collection for my role in Laws of Attraction, which is coming out in March. I play a fashion designer who's married to a rock star and lives in Ireland. When I put on your clothes, I felt blasé, tortured, artistic, decadent, glamorous, and emotional.
ZALDY:
All that, wow. It was fun to dress you up. I can't wait to see you in that orange gown walking down the castle steps in Ireland. That collection had a lot of Celtic influences. We did macramé leather with Celtic knotting, and huge prints of Celtic knots. The fact that your character was living in Ireland was too perfect.

PARKER: The gown had these tremendous cuffs that hung off of my elbows and almost reached the ground.
ZALDY:
It took about ten yards of fabric to make that dress. It was made for that moment.

PARKER: I can see you designing costumes for conceptual movies like Blade Runner.
ZALDY:
I would love to do more film work, but we'll see. How many more projects can I say yes to right now?

PARKER: Who have you been saying yes to?
ZALDY:
Recently, my big fun client was Britney Spears. She was a doll.

PARKER: No way! Had she ever seen anything like your designs?
ZALDY:
When she was trying things on, she said, "Trust me, I've seen so many clothes and your clothes are so different." That was nice. I've also been working with Gwen Stefani, who just launched a line called L.A.M.B. I'm working on the second collection, for fall 2004.

PARKER: Are you the designer for L.A.M.B.?
ZALDY:
I'm a consultant. L.A.M.B. is like a think tank. There are also two guys from a company called Nice Collective who make a lot of her husband Gavin's clothes. We all get together with Gwen and her assistant designer, Annie. It's been amazing — I've never done anything like it before.

PARKER: I can see how she'd be a great muse for you.
ZALDY:
I remember the first time I saw her in that "Spiderwebs" video — she blew me away. And her energy is amazing. I'm also developing a line for David Barton Gyms.

PARKER: It's not going to be a bunch of spandex and Lycra, is it?
ZALDY:
No, it's going to be clothes that you can live in.

PARKER: I love that. I have these onesies from your first collection that look like little bloomers. You could just laze around in them all day.
ZALDY:
Or go to the gym and work out. David Barton's new location is the YMCA across the street from here.

PARKER: Are you serious?
ZALDY:
Serious. I'm going to be able to walk out of the Chelsea Hotel in my bathrobe, have a sauna and a Jacuzzi over there, and just come back home. It's going to be a fantastic extension of my bathroom.

© index magazinegelatin1
Zaldy by Timophy Greenfield-Sanders, 2004
© index magazinegelatin1
Zaldy by Timophy Greenfield-Sanders, 2004

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