Despite that experience, Mr. Sparo said he considered the pop superstar an inspiration, along with Yoko Ono. He also has a wish list of those he’d like to dress, which includes Grace Jones, Kate Pierson of the B-52’s and Nicki Minaj.
If Unleashed by Garo proves to be a hit, those icons may be stomping down to Alphabet City any day. The show came about after an assistant became convinced that the combination of manic energy, fierce devotion to clients and mastery of corset-making would be irresistible on TV. Ms. Barnett agreed, calling the show a “special creative twist on fashion programming.”
The clips from the first few episodes, viewable online, are promising. Mr. Sparo has charisma in spades, not to mention the catchiness of that name. Amid a seeming glut of makeover reality shows, a refined specialist like Mr. Sparo may just manage to stand out. Sample episode title: “Can I Pull You a Little Tighter?”
Which brings us back to the designer’s original challenge—he had a male corset, and he wanted to get us into it.
“Just duck right in here,” Mr. Sparo said, holding up a black harness.
“You’re not really doing this correctly unless you break a rib, right?” we asked as the corset slid onto our torso.
“No, these corsets are comfortable!” Mr. Sparo said, lacing up the bottom rungs with a sudden tug. “In fact, when you take out the mutilation, the corset is empowering to women. It gives them more confidence.”
At the moment, we were confident that our abdomen was about to collapse, that the saddle-thick hide of the corset would wedge further into us with each fastening of the shoelacelike web on the back. Still, Mr. Sparo kept ratcheting up the snugness.
“You want it tighter?” he asked.
“Um, sure,” we responded.
He yanked the cord and the leather dug deeper.
“Sure!” We exhaled.
And then, with the corset fully strapped on, we approached the studio’s giant mirror. Look at that—we couldn’t really move, but damn if we didn’t look a good five pounds slimmer!
“You see,” Mr. Sparo said, in a thrilling voice befitting a TV star. “The corset will never go out of style.”