Photos by Jenafer Gillingham

Sweats, platform flip-flops, a faux fur over a studded baby T — you see outfits similar to this on women all over L.A. every day. Designer Marco Morante has tapped into this tossed salad of comfort and pizzazz that’s a uniquely Angeleno uniform and infused it with calculated, off-the-cuff glamour. His breezy MarcoMarco line features blouses, skirts and dresses that are a gorgeous pastiche of stitched-together stretch, cotton and knit-silk fabrics: Clothes look “finished” but are as comfortable as the ancient bathrobe you should have thrown out — yet throw on the moment you get home.

And, as they say in the fashion biz, he goes from day to evening with a change of accessories. Translated into real life, this means you can wear MarcoMarco while dashing from the gym to an audition, the post office or the dog park, and then throw on a pair of heels for a dressed-up date. Morante uses the female form as a canvas — wedges of color nip in waists, unexpected ruffles accentuate the curve of a hip, crescents of fabric ripple over a shoulder highlighting a babelicious bicep (and if you’re lacking there, not to worry, it’s implied by the drape of the sleeve). Formfitting and body-conscious, Morante’s clothes show a gal off without making it look like she’s trying too hard.

Swimsuit-Lycra dress with
braided strap and stitching
with Monika Matiss hand-
blown-glass belt buckle

He started out as a painter — not surprisingly, given the Mondrian flourishes found in his work. He attended CalArts as an aspiring scenic designer and was told he should do costumes. To earn cash, he began making T-shirts and selling them in the cafeteria. His patchwork style developed then. “I couldn’t make real patterns, and cutting smaller pieces was easier. It was the only way I could get the stuff to stay on the body,” he says with a laugh. “It went from being an accident to being on purpose, and now it’s a theory!”

The cafeteria T-shirts — “Fast Fashion,” he called them — sold better than junk food, and Marco knew he was onto something when he saw not just students but faculty sporting his originals. At CalArts, he also met partner Chris Psaila, who oversees the business end of things. “I think he was the first person to buy a shirt!” Morante cracks.

Stretch lace and cotton-
knit Mondrian minidress

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Four years ago, after a brief stint at Petro Zillia, he began his own line in earnest, designing, cutting and sewing, with Psaila handling the representation. Morante and Psaila have been doing brisk business with custom designs — Mary J. Blige, Julia Mendoza and Courtney Love are fans — and his pieces can be found at Fred Segal Santa Monica, O Boutique on Sunset Plaza, Xin on Melrose and Lolita in Woodland Hills. At the beginning of November, he and Psaila are opening their own boutique in Hollywood, which will feature ready-to-wear as well as custom designs (starting at $150 an hour, “but we work really fast,” Morante assures).

“Everyone says my clothes are flattering to the body,” Morante says. “But the best part is that they feel like pajamas!”

Custom eyes:
Designer Marco Morante

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MarcoMarco, 1641 Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood, (661) 755-0641.

Model: Shar Michelle/L.A. Models (Runway)
Makeup: Veronica Chanel

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