How did the 21-year-old designer Marco Garro go from a small town in Costa Rica, commuting by bus six hours a day to attend fashion school, to dressing the likes of Jorja Smith, Tinashe, and Anastasia Karanikolaou?
After launching his namesake label earlier this year with a grit, tenacity, and vibrancy that rivals the patterns used in his colorful clothing, Garro’s work has already caught the eye of many well-known stylists worldwide. But the emerging designer is no stranger to getting noticed. I personally first met Garro three years ago at Hot n Spicy in downtown San José, Costa Rica’s capital city—the go-to party for anyone who dreams of being somebody. Although he stands at only 5’4”, Garro didn’t get lost in the crowd. Wearing his own creations and dressing his friends caused heads to turn toward his entourage right as they stepped into the venue. At that time, he had just started going to fashion school, but it was clear to me even then that his clothes told a distinct story.
In the past year, the greater fashion industry has also taken notice of Garro’s skills—during this year’s New York Fashion Week, he showcased his collection, titled Bajo Presion (“Under Pressure”) at the NFT Fashion Showcase and Auction. The exhibition, hosted in SoHo by Legitimate Tech and the emerging designer platform ap0cene, gave up-and-coming artists the opportunity to display their designs within the framework of NYFW—and Garro ultimately won the LGT/ap0cene Emergent Fashion Showcase Award at the event.
The designer, who is still based in Costa Rica, where he makes all his collections, including his latest drop, called Neutro Rosa (Neutral Pink), draws inspiration from his daily life—“by graffiti, by the streets,” he tells me years after our first meeting, during a recent Zoom interview. Garro says his current design process involves taking pictures of objects he finds interesting and transforming them into patterns, distorting the images into multicolored twirls and turning them into completely unrecognizable pieces of graphic art. He then prints these patterns on fabric for his garments, which range from skin-tight mesh bodysuits to voluminous conical dresses.
The designer, who recently turned 22 years old, got his start in fashion through doing theater in high school. “I’ve always felt fascinated by McQueen, Mugler and Gaultier,” Garro says. “The way these designers would put on a show made me realize fashion is very much like a play in which every model is a different character depending on the garment they’re wearing. Fashion is not only the clothes you see, but also dialogue between the designer and the public.” he says. When Garro first started doing theater, he says he found it was a way to let loose and gain confidence. Raised by his great-grandmother, grandma, and mother, he grew up as a shy sheltered kid with exceptional art skills. But theater allowed him to embody a type of loud, demonstrative personality that didn’t come naturally.
Following his graduation from fashion school, Garro trusted in his own independent way of thought to guide his brand ethos. Seeing beauty in the trivial is Garro’s way of finding inspiration in his small hometown of Turrialba—a location with a population of about 25,000 people, where not much happens aside from dairy cows grazing in mountainous pastures. When Garro first started studying fashion design in 2018, he moved to San José, Costa Rica’s capital, but eventually had to move back to Turrialba and start commuting three hours each way to attend classes. (He’s still based in Turrialba and visits San Jose a couple of times a week to pick up fabrics and send out orders.)
After seeing his work posted on Instagram pages like @ap0cene and @UpNextDesigner in 2020, numerous stylists of prominent artists started reaching out to him directly through his Instagram profile. However, it hasn’t all been luck and fate. Garro credits his work ethic and confidence as key reasons for the way his label has rapidly grown in the past year. “Since the first time a stylist reached out to me, I remember thinking ‘So it begins,’” he recalls. “I was always extremely positive. People think it’s hard to grow and make it, being from Costa Rica and all, but no. If you’re determined, and you fight, and look for the right techniques, you can make it.”
Garro’s current client roster is wide-ranging, from artists to influencers; however, the ones possibly closest to his heart are drag queens. “Working with drag queens is fundamental to me. They’re the kind of people I want to see wearing my garments—I make garments for people who want to feel free, people who want to feel strong,” he says. “It’s of the utmost importance for me to deliver a part of me and my designs to them.” Since he started designing, Garro has dressed queens from his home country and, recently, made custom pieces for drag performers Bimini Bon-Boulash and Pabllo Vittar.
Although his signature pink and blue patterns have drawn the attention of prominent personalities—Kylie Minogue has gotten in touch for an order—Garro does not remain static. He’s already working on changing things up. “I want to try new techniques, new colors, new shapes. I want to offer something different,” he says, pointing to his most recent collection, Neutro Rosa, which came out in December. It’s a full circle moment—he tells me it’s inspired by nightlife, ecstasy, and motion; where it all began. Marco Garro has become unstoppable, beating all odds against someone with his background. He has found a way to stand out and succeed, with idiosyncratic designs that mirror his personal story.
“I like showing how something considered insignificant by others can be transformed into something beautiful,” he says.