Marc Zaffuto revolutionized the Parisian nightlife when he co-created the Club Sandwich parties and the Manko Cabaret in Paris. He discovered his love for party and Fashion early and transformed it into an impressive career, primarily made with passion and enthusiasm. In our conversation, we come back to his debuts, his encounter with Emmanuel d’Orazio, the person who will become his best friend and business partner, how he defines success, and discuss the importance of self-esteem, the work ethic to achieve dreams, and some anecdote from the iconic Manko Cabaret. Epic.
Marc Zaffuto: I was born in Savoie in the ’70s at the beginning of the development of what will become this big ski resort called Courchevel. I am a “Savoyard”, a little guy from the French Alps with Sicilian origins.
After starting medical school which I stopped very early because I couldn’t stand the atmosphere of the auditoriums and the student vibe, I moved to London in the early ’90s. I then discover the madness, the city of all excesses, and settle down with a group of friends I met there and then began a bohemian life. I am making a living being a nude model in art schools, a few apparitions in amateur erotica-artistic movies. At night, I work as a bartender in the clubs where I also party until very late, I go out every night! At the time, It is the beginning of House music, rave parties. I feel alive!
My blond hair goes through all the colors and I finally end up shaving it. I go out in insane looks and I discover a club that will be a revelation to me: Kinky Gerlinky.
For the anecdote, I arrived at the door of the club for their night premiere in the ’90s. The physio asked me if I was ok to take off my white t-shirt to get in. I did. Then, she asked me if I was ok to take off my lacerated jeans. I said ok. It was a game between us that both of us seemed to enjoy. She took out a very small white butcher’s apron from nowhere and invited me to wear it, which I did, again. Finally, she asked me to take off my underwear. Well, that look was more impactful than my jeans and my white t-shirt for sure!
Yes, I spent the whole night in the club, half-naked wearing this apron, I met the whole Londonian planet. From Boy George to Leigh Bowery who was going to perform in front of my amazed eyes his mythical performance where he simulates giving birth to a child.
I loved all these nights and they definitely influenced me and my work a lot.
This madness lasted a little over a year and then I landed in Paris where I was bartending in a gay bar where Jean-Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mugler used to hang out. I also did a little time as a salesperson in a Japanese Luxury boutique (Yamamoto), and I discover the fascinating world of Fashion by working as a booker for Atlantis, an agency representing the best makeup artists and hairdressers.
I discover the madness of designers, fashion shows, photoshoots, magazines, top models, whom I often end up partying with. The agency works with the top level in this business all over the world. In the meantime, I travel to Milan for Gucci or Versace, go back to London for Mc Queen or to NYC for Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, or Xuly Bët who grows internationally. I will later represent and work with Fashion photographers and stylists such as Steven Klein or Peter Lindbergh and become an artistic director: I work with Matthias Vriens & Tom Ford for the Gucci group. Living a dream worldwide! I learn so much being surrounded by such talented people and my ideas and suggestions are a hit most of the time! In Addition, I do some artistic direction for the best parties in Paris. I do go out a lot. I am everywhere.
I would say being able to adapt to anything, whether it is a situation or with people.
Focus on what you want and you will attract it, maintain a positive and dynamic mindset! But also, follow your intuition and do not pay attention to the negative noise around you.
Above all, I need to surprise myself, surprise others, and feel excited. I want people to dream!
We met in the mid-90s in Paris. He quickly became my best friend. At the time, we make many trips together, we party everywhere and we party hard! We quickly realized that our duo worked in a rather theatrical way. When we arrived somewhere at a party or a dinner, we put ourselves in a “Show Time mode” and entertained the audience. Emmanuel with his whacky Bourgeois side, cry laughing, me on the other side, more rock, fashion and very sexed. Doing business together came as evidence, it all started from a real desire to have fun and to share our common “madness” and vision for parties the way we love it.
We develop a lot of ideas together during our late-night conversations and it is always a creative back and forth process.
We do things very seriously without taking ourselves too seriously.
Stay thirsty for knowledge, think as “us” rather than “me”, but also that tenacity is key, and that someone else’s success is not an obstacle to your own success.
It is important to take a step back after these last 4 years with Manko and prior to that, 10 years of Club Sandwich with no break in between.
To take the time to be aware of my needs, my desires, What do I want today? We are offered so many things, you have to learn when to say no. Actually, saying no is the most difficult part! My father always told me it’s easier to say yes but then where does that take you?
To answer your question, first, It would be to find a project that excites me, because If I am excited, my creativity is on and I can sell the idea, reach out to my network and use my expertise for the project. Yes, when I am truly excited, everything is possible, I can fly! and I am very excited about 2020! I want to explore new horizons: create new shows, new entertainment concepts, a cabaret on tour, be a consultant for very private parties, artistic director for the Cinema or for artists…EXCITE ME! [laughs]
Do you want an anecdote about Celine? We first met her through “Pépé Munoz”. The first time she spent an evening with us, she arrived at 11 p.m. and closed with us, dazzled by the shows and the atmosphere. It was on July 26, the evening of Emmanuel’s birthday and Celine sang Happy Birthday to him. Epic! That night, she was on a cloud, kissing everyone, and left with “Pépé” (shirtless) on her arm.
The Cabaret was a Celebrities & VIPs epicenter of all kinds all by itself. So for the top celebrities like Celine who wanted their privacy and safety, we were installing them in a dark booth. Thus, they were able to see and witness everything that was going on without being seen. People could only “guess” them and it was great!”Everybody knew when Mick Jagger was there but he was in the dark and you couldn’t see him.
For her second visit, Celine was wearing Alexandre Vauthier Couture with strass glasses that sparkle in the dark, that was a look inspired by the Film The Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie. Fantastic! She stayed all night. We became accomplices. I introduced her to Michelle Lamy, Rick Owens’ wife. Two very different styles! On the other side, Dita Von Teese was observing the scene from her booth. Surreal!
Like we did with Club Sandwich in 2015, we decide to stop the Manko Cabaret at its best in 2019. Four years of pure M.a.d.n.e.s.s!
I met Allanah at one of our Club Sandwich events in 2010. I was first fascinated by her surreal curves and her cartoon look. Right after, we immediately offered her to do a show for our next Club Sandwich party: A Rodeo in lingerie on a mechanical bull. Since then, we never left each other and she performed at many more of our parties with shows that we wanted more and more spectacular.
We became close friends, she is Family! A very intelligent woman with an incredible journey that she tells about on stage on her One Woman Show, where I give her some help on the staging part. The show is called An Evening With Allanah Starr.
During an evening at Maxim’s for a private client, Allanah had to take the microphone and at that exact moment, Emmanuel and I looked at each other and said to ourselves that she was incredible, funny, and smart … a little crazy too! When we created the cabaret, it became obvious to have her become our mistress of ceremonies. She didn’t go easy on the audience, and they loved it! Diabolical and sublime.
Self-confidence comes from self-esteem, doesn’t it? When your work is valued and appreciated, it gives you the courage to develop new projects. It also takes self-confidence to reassure the people who work with you and to successfully manage a project to the end.
Work on your self-confidence. You boost your confidence by doing, taking actions, not by being passive, and scrolling down on Instagram or watching Netflix. You do not feel confident 24/7, that is why it is crucial to constantly take action.
For example, answering your questions is a kind of retrospective of all that I have done those last few years and it gives me even more confidence, an ego boost that makes me want to be back in the action and create new projects. So thanks again for thinking of me!
It’s freedom, right? Being able to provide for your own needs and not depend on anyone materialistically, morally, or intellectually. This is by definition the total opposite of submission. Not being dependent on others, potential pressures, or social codes. Someday I was told that freedom is no boss, no employees! You do not depend on anyone and are accountable only to yourself. It is sometimes emotionally complicated but that is the price to pay.
I am not Marc from the Chanel House or from another House, I am Marc Zaffuto.
I no longer remember who said that success was permission to continue. I like it.
For me, success is more about the success of the projects I have created rather than my own, even if they go together. My work being recognized by people I respect or admire is beyond financial success, although money matters of course. As an example for the cabaret, the compliments, encouragements of Emmanuelle Alt (Editor in Chief of Vogue France), and the article in Vogue, her magazine, was for me a real success. And for the show, of course, the public, who comes, screams and applauds!
My first answer is Paris because I deeply feel Parisian but I also do love London, Los Angeles, and why not Vegas, the temple of entertainment, or Tokyo! I am open as long as it’s glamorous and fun!
I work out! I need to feel good about myself so I can be good in my head and be creative.
During a stay in Los Angeles where I was working on a movie (by the Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli) and was going out every single night, I suggested my best friend Emmanuel d’Orazio we organize a party for our friends when I get back to Paris. Club Sandwich was born in 2005.
Ten years of crazy and wild parties that started in a very small club with 50 people where we were already offering incredible performances by artists, mixing cabaret, strip, and comedy. Disco music. Underground Rock. Pop and House. We did events all around the world and collaborated with many luxury brands and celebrities. We relaunched the costume parties (which we started to see pop up everywhere after) It was crazy fun! The Drag movement was back in Paris.
In 2015 Emmanuel & I are offered to launch a Cabaret on avenue Montaigne.
The Manko Cabaret, in collaboration with Director Manon Savary & Musical Director Florian Sailer, we go wild and create a breathtaking cabaret show… something unheard of.
Mick Jagger, Celine Dion, Johnny Depp, DiCaprio, Zendaya, Nicki Minaj, Raf simons, Courtney Love, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Baz Luhrmann, Sam Smith, Monica Bellucci, Olivier Rousteing, who had his residence every Friday, Anna Wintour, Carine Roitfeld, Rick Owens, James Franco, Jessica Chastain…Paris has not seen a surge of stars in a night place since “Les Bains Douches” in the ’80s.
The list is too long to keep going, it would be ridiculous, all those names dropping. [laughs] The coolest people on the planet, famous or not came to see the show and party with us.
The creative process. Bringing an idea into life, from music, an image. Associate an artist, a costume, a choreography. Dreaming of a show during a hysterical conversation with Emmanuel and often also with Florian. We can spend hours there! It’s the best time. We keep certain ideas and put aside others, sometimes too ambitious for the place or too crazy for the budget. [laughs] The enjoyment comes when the show is performed on stage and we see it come to life in front of the public. This sharing moment is good. The show is no longer yours. It is alive, evolves night after night. It is the magic of the performing arts.
The best is yet to come! like Frank Sinatra’s song. [laughs]
A chic without too much effort. You can be chic wearing jeans and a t-shirt. It is more of an attitude. To smile, be kind, pay attention to others. I don’t know if that’s what defines Parisian but that’s what chic represents for me. [laughs]
You could interview my friend, actor, and director: NICOLAS MAURY. He was revealed in the Netflix show Call My Agent and is simply amazing in Heart+Knife with Vanessa Paradis. He just directed his first movie Garçon Chiffon. I remember, one of those nights, he performed a revisited and hilarious transformism show at the cabaret, Les femmes, ca fait pédé written by Gainsbourg for Regine. I love him!
Read the full UNFILTERED Series HERE [/mepr-show]