Diego Montoya is a visual artist and fashion designer whose meticulously handcrafted, fantastical creations have won him legions of fans—from Lady Gaga to the stars of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Born in Peru and raised in Miami, Montoya’s early creative influences ran the gamut from John Galliano and Alexander McQueen to Princess Diana’s wedding dress. As a teenager in Miami, he started attending drag shows, and after studying fashion design in school, he moved to New York City to develop his own over-the-top sensibility.
Today, Montoya’s wearable works of art have been worn by everyone from Sasha Velour and Bob the Drag Queen to Jennifer Lewis on the Oscars red carpet. You can check out their latest projects on Creatively here.
What is the first creative project you remember?
In my early New York days, I would design large scale immersive art installations in raw spaces (mostly empty warehouses) for an experimental queer art festival. It was an annual project that I did for six years. The festival was like a pop-up world that lasted a week, but the build was about a month long and took dozens of volunteers to accomplish. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding projects I have worked on.
Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Playful. Intricate. Dramatic.
What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?
My most fulfilling collaboration has got to be with Sasha Velour. We have been working together for the past four years and I have grown so much as an artist because of it.
What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?
During my early art builds and installations, a mentor taught me that the best leaders develop new leaders. I learned to listen to my team and encourage them to push their talents. This really influenced the way I would approach leadership and the way I run my company today.
Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?
I think you are born with creativity but you must push yourself to learn the skills to support it.
What’s the last dream you had?
The other day I found my 2016 vision board—I used to make them every year. My big dream was to make my art my primary income, start my company and move on from doing random freelance gigs that were not in my field. This seemed so distant at the time and it was so nice to be reading those intentions now and realize that not only had I built a company based on my work, but I now was able to hire a team and open a studio. 2016 me would be so proud.
One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?
Every piece we make is handmade and very labor intensive. I hope that people can see the love that goes into every piece and not only appreciate the craftsmanship but the intention that goes into the process.
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