Michael Fausto may only be 27, but he already has a manifesto about his eponymous fashion line: “I really try to design for the modern heroine,” he says. “I usually refer to it as fashion that centers on the dichotomy of myth and modernity.” Before striking out on his own in 2019, the Millstone Township native trained in the ateliers of Oscar de la Renta, Marchesa and Badgley Mischka; his red-carpet résumé includes gowns worn by Robin Roberts at the Oscars, Allison Janney at the Emmys, and Carrie Underwood at the CMA Awards.
How did you get into fashion?
My mom, Elvira Falsetta, who’s now CFO of my company, was executive director of News Planning and Business Development for ABC News when I was a kid. I started visiting her office right around the time ABC was acquired by Disney, and I’d see all these posters of Disney princesses on the walls. It helped me create this kind of fantastical world in my head. I’d sit there doing drawings.
Later you went to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, turning down an acceptance to Cornell.
I went to Allentown High. When I got accepted to Cornell, the principal pulled me into his office and said, “You know, Michael, it’s a real mistake to say no to an Ivy League school.” But I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. FIT was the place to be.
What has been your pinnacle so far as a designer?
Definitely the most exciting moment of my career was when Laverne Cox wore the Da Paolino gown on the red carpet, and when Julia Kennelly wore the bridal version of the dress at the 92nd Academy Awards and won an Oscar! The dress is from a sketch I did in school that my mom pulled—she has piles and piles of sketches I’ve done on napkins, homework, whatever I could find. I get requests for that dress all the time.
Is there something that says “New Jersey” about your collections?
Well, I work back and forth between New Jersey and New York. My boyfriend and I have an apartment in the East Village, but the gowns take up so much space that a lot of them live at my parents’ house in Millstone Township. I’ve set up a huge studio there. You might see me on New Jersey Transit on any given day with tons of garment bags and rolls of fabric. I’m a real bag lady.
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Your gowns, including a bridal line, can cost thousands. Do you have anything more affordable on the horizon?
I have an e-commerce site that I launched during quarantine, because for my original clientele, the events they were going to aren’t there anymore. On the e-commerce platform, dresses are priced a lot more accessibly, starting at $150. And all the pieces are still made in New York.
I feel for you, launching only months before the pandemic started, in October 2019.
You have to take it in stride. So many designers have been really hard hit. I’ve had some opportunities fall through the cracks—like, I had a showcase planned at the Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street that didn’t happen, and I lost some clients who had charity galas they couldn’t go to. But there’s a silver lining: It’s been a good chance to concentrate my energies on designing.