NEW YORK — What is it like to cut your teeth with a fashion giant?
“You listen, listen, listen and then you execute, execute, execute,” said Francisco Costa, who worked for Oscar de la Renta, Tom Ford and Calvin Klein before becoming women’s creative director of Calvin Klein Collection. “You work very hard. It’s a learning experience.”
Costa took to the stage at the Fashion Institute of Technology on Monday for a conversation with Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at FIT, the designer’s alma mater. During the 90-minute talk, Costa offered insight into his upbringing, his path to the top of one of fashion’s biggest brands and the mentors along the way, his role at Calvin Klein and thedesign process.
The designer, who grew up in Guarani, Brazil, credited his late mother, Maria-Francisca, for much of his early fascination with fashion.
“I don’t know where she’d find international magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, but she’d have them around,” Costa recalled of his mother, who had an interest in charity that prompted a teenage Costa to create clothes and plan charitable fashion shows.
After his mother’s death in 1981, Costa moved to New York, taking English classes at Hunter College and enrolling at FIT in the evening. He landed his first job at Susan Bennett Studio before joining the He-Ro Group to work on Bill Blass dresses and knits. He then began working with de la Renta, followed by a stint with Ford at Gucci. In 2002, he was looking to return to New York to be with his partner, John DeStefano.
“Oscar called me and said, ‘I’d love for you to come back and do Balmain,’” he recalled, adding that he eventually turned down the offer and instead decided to join Calvin Klein in New York. “There was always an excitement and genuine interest,” he said of Klein. “He is so curious, direct, sharp and very funny.”
Asked if he would ever consider taking on more creative control at Calvin Klein International, Costa pointed to the company’s successful structure, which has separate creative directors for men’s wear, accessories and other divisions. For instance, he meets with Italo Zucchelli, his men’s wear counterpart, to discuss matters such as upcoming campaigns. Costa also said that when he sometimes reflects on why he never started his own line, his mind wanders to Karl Lagerfeld, whose biggest success was at Chanel.
As for the recession, great design should never be compromised, said Costa, who hopes to continue doing what he does now. “I just love what I do,” he said. And while scores of celebrities have selected Costa’s designs for the red carpet, he admitted there is one woman he would like to see in his designs. “It would be fun to dress Michelle Obama, actually,” he said.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast