TWO SCHOOLS OF CALVIN: Rarely has a designer managed to polarize the critics to such a degree as has Francisco Costa, who presented his third women’s wear collection for Calvin Klein on Tuesday to sharply divided reviews. The extreme opinions Costa’s collection generated ranged from that of Cathy Horyn, who lavished a heaping nine paragraphs of praise upon the “seismic collection” that “gave new credibility to minimalism” (compared to three sentences for Ralph Lauren) in The New York Times on Thursday, to that of Robin Givhan, who wrote in The Washington Post the same day that Costa “stubbornly insists that sad-sack silhouettes somehow capture the label’s history of minimalist sophistication. For spring, Costa believes in slouchy dresses in gray jersey that are so unflattering that one wonders whether he has ever met a woman, let alone considered the female shape.”

Such a bipolar reaction from the press would leave any designer’s head spinning, but Costa said the one review most important to him — that of Calvin Klein himself — was entirely positive.

“I appreciate everyone’s comment, but at the end of the day, I have to walk down the runway, and if I don’t believe in the clothes, I can’t do that,” Costa said. “It’s my third collection. For me to be deeply upset or happy about a review is dangerous. I have to keep doing my job, and whether I please people or do not please people, that’s really not my problem. As long as I keep true to myself, I will be happy. There are very few people who you can rely on to have an honest eye and to believe their compliment or not. If you looked at every review, then you would stop working.”

Costa noted the retail reaction to his work has grown only stronger in his three seasons behind the label, adding that a dress from the cruise collection featured in Bergdorf Goodman’s windows recently resulted in 10 special orders.

“I do think it’s interesting that people have diversified opinions about the collection, because that’s what makes it exciting,” he said. “It would be sad if I had to do something mediocre just to make everyone happy….If people disagree with me, great, it will give me a chance to make them think differently.” — Eric Wilson

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