During NY Fashion Week, Marcia Arnsparger Chile receives applause as she walks down the runway. (Photo courtesy Marcia Arnsparger Santiago)
BARNEGAT – As a tomboy growing up in the Pennsylvania mountains, Barnegat resident Marcia Arnsparger Santiago didn’t pay much attention to clothing styles. Even her mother now marvels at the fact that Santiago’s designs earned her a repeat spot on the runway at NY Fashion Week.
“When I go home to visit, I’m riding four-wheelers, and all of the stuff I do now is out the window,”Santiago, 42. “My mom reminds me of what I was like when I was a kid and tells me she never expected me to be where I am today.”
Although she’s still a spitfire of a different sort, Santiago’s transition from a tomboy to a notorious designerShe was not able to move immediately. Instead, she attended classes to become an operating room technician and moved to New Jersey in her twenties.
Santiago’s position at a hospital in Pomona lasted nearly a decade. In 2013, she and Jamaal Jackson, her husband, moved to Barnegat. Santiago took maternity leave in 2014 after she had moved to Barnegat with her husband, Jamaal Jackson. She hesitated to return to her hospital job after she realized she was having trouble walking for ten hours.
A friend’s granddaughter was in the Miss Teen New Jersey contest and asked Santiago for help in outfitting her. She was already a keen shopper and was determined to make something special for the contestant.
“When I was asked to help to design the dress, I decided designing was something I could learn,”Santiago. “At this point, it’s not really a sewing thing for me, although I can sew. I have seamstresses that work with me now.”
“My thing is much more about picking out all the fabrics and putting together my vision,” Santiago continued. “I sketch everything out on paper and then have people who put it together to make it work.”
Barnegat resident Marcia Arnsparger Santiago reviews a fashion magazine featuring her designs. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan
Santiago admits she doesn’t have artistic training but is able to put the basics together to come up with intriguing designs. However, her big break came when one of her designs made it into the Miss’d America Pageant hosted by Carson Kressley. Drag queens are dressed to the nines for this contest.
One of the show’s producers learned of Santiago’s talents from a friend Santiago knew from a nightclub. The producer wanted to know the new. designerHe will be able to make a jacket. Kressley is himself a fashion designer who also serves as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“I was getting requests for designs, and my husband said I should just turn the whole thing into a business,” Santiago explained. “I got to the point where I was extremely busy.”
As Santiago considered the change, KlosetSlayer seemed like the perfect name for her new venture. After reflecting, she realized that outfits that look good and are stylish are the best. “slays.”
Santiago’s designs range from loungewear to couture, like the Jackie O’ jacket she designed in honor of the former first lady. She currently works from her Barnegat house and travels to New York City to attend photoshoots or shows. There are many fashionHer work has been featured by magazines.
“My loungewear has been on TV shows and is very affordable,”Santiago. “It will be featured on Season 10 of Black Ink Crewl on VH-1. There’s also a new reality show coming out on Netflix that has somebody wearing my designs. I can’t really talk about it, but it debuts in January.”
According to Santiago, her company has also outfitted several reality TV stars, well-known rappers, and football players. Klosetslayer’s participation in NY Fashion Week this year wasn’t a first – but came with some extra notoriety.
Santiago gathered all of her models in Time Square to highlight another accomplishment. Klosetslayer took center stage with an enormous billboard on Broadway, showcasing the company’s work and models.
“I like to push boundaries a little bit and demonstrated this during Fashion Week,” Santiago shared. “We did a suit jacket with a long train for one of our gay models. It was a huge hit and I already have fifteen orders for it.”
One of the things that makes Santiago’s designs unique is their universal appeal. It’s one of the things she prides herself on the most.
A Times Square billboard features a Barnegat resident’s designs. (Photo courtesy Marcia Arnsparger Santiago)
“I think the best part of everything is trying to make people feel good,”Santiago. “We don’t do regular models on our runways. We include plus size because that’s what’s realistic. Not everybody is a size zero.”
The decision to move from the operating room to the designIt was a difficult time for the world. Jamaal was just six months old when Baylon was diagnosed as having non-Hodgins Lymphoma. Jamaal is the owner of I.C. FireStop is a foam company that protects commercial buildings in New York City.
Already making the daily commute to New York City from Barnegat, Jamaal found himself going in for another reason. Jamaal, a young father, was admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering. He also returned for more regular treatments, before he went into remission after a few years.
“He’s such a great man,”Santiago. “He even coaches our son’s baseball team, and for some time, it seemed that everything was back to normal.”
Only, it wasn’t – the drugs used in the clinical trial brought on a new cancer. Jamaal, 41 years old, will be returning to Memorial Sloan Kettering in the next week as an in-patient. He will be returning to Memorial Sloan Kettering in the next month to resume his fight for stem cell transplantation.
New York Fashion Week continues to stand out as one of the most renowned Fashion Weeks in the world. While it’s the fourth time that Santiago’s designs made it to the runway, she feels there’s something critical that needs to be part of her success.
My husband and I do a lot of things to give back,” Santiago said. “We do food giveaways and do anything we can to donate and give others the help they need.”