Fashion designer Michael Ngo outfits the biggest queens and kings of pop
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Swifties, Hotties, Arianators — pop stars are built on the backs of their fandoms. But rarely do fans actually get to enter a star’s trajectory and become part of their orbit — which is exactly what Michael Ngo has done.
The San Jose, California-born designer creates show-stopping looks for today’s biggest artists. His signature style of shimmering fabrics, strong silhouettes, bedazzled embellishments, and intergalactic edge has adorned the likes of J.Lo, Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, and Lady Gaga. More recently, his work can be found on the album art for Christina Aguilera’s 2022 album Aguilera and in a Lancôme fragrance ad campaign starring Zendaya. The list goes on, but it's safe to say: Ngo is kind of a big deal.
As an artistic child, Ngo feels lucky to have Asian parents who nurtured and supported his endeavors in everything from singing and acting to dance and playing dress-up. After moving to L.A. with his family at 20 (and receiving a respectful rejection from UCLA’s Communication Studies Department), he started making connections and learning the ins and outs of celebrity styling while working at the Diesel Black Gold store on Melrose. But then, along came Gaga.
“Ever since she popped up on the scene playing in little gay clubs, I took notice,” says Ngo of the artist. “She checked all the boxes with fashion, music, and the way she performed.” He started creating Lady Gaga-inspired looks to wear to her shows, waiting around for her after her sets and at her hotels with fellow Little Monsters. “Back then when I was a fan going to the shows, I didn’t have the sewing skills I needed,” explains Ngo, “I would be hot-gluing fabric together, safety pinning stuff — it was very crafty.” Along with garnering positive encouragement from the artist herself at a meet-and-greet, this newfound hobby sparked something within Ngo and led him to pursue a Fashion Design degree at the Art Institute of California - Los Angeles. In a way, Ngo’s big break came from taking a chance on himself. After becoming valedictorian of his graduating class in the mid-2010s, he shocked classmates by opting to pull his senior collection when a new rule was instituted that said each designer could only show eight looks, which was just half of the collection that he’d worked so hard to create. Instead, he held onto his collection and presented it months later at L.A. Fashion Week 2015. A-list stylists and industry insiders were in attendance — and shortly after the show, the calls for samples started coming in.
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While it’s hard for Ngo to pinpoint the exact moment he felt like he’d “made it,” creating pieces for Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour — pieces that would be seen by global audiences — was certainly a game changer. “During the dress rehearsal, I remember crying and thinking, 'This is my world now,'” the designer says. “I remember going to concerts and seeing what the stars were wearing, and now my design is gonna be seen around the world. That was a big moment.”
Just as Ngo’s career was reaching a zenith, though, the pandemic shut down the world, hitting the entertainment industry particularly hard. After temporarily pausing his business to reassess how to move forward, Ngo had the idea to create his first online shop and use the excess fabric lying around his studio to create the Revival Mask Project. He created fabric mask collections in his signature aesthetic — adorning them in chains, rhinestones, and even spikes — and 100% of their proceeds went to benefiting the Los Angeles Food Bank. One of the project’s biggest supporters was none other than Lady Gaga, who was photographed in several of the masks.
Now, as the industry regains its footing, the focus for Ngo and his small-but-mighty team is to balance custom work with creating pieces for his online shop so his supporters can rock their own Michael Ngo wares as well. He’s also looking forward to returning to the runway. “I love runway collections because I get to create something for myself and tell a story,” he says. “I can’t wait to show people all the new stuff I’ve been working on.”
Whatever the future holds, Ngo’s own star doesn’t appear to be dimming anytime soon. “The first couple years of my career were very hard,” says Ngo. “I had to do a lot of paying my dues and sacrificing pay for work and to get my name out there.” But even with handfuls of top-tier collabs now under his belt, he’s still got names on his wish list. At the top? “Rihanna,” he says. “She’s such an icon.” So, Rih, if you need some Super Bowl halftime show looks — we know just who you should call.