10 Minutes with Paul Costelloe
The brainchild of designer Paul Costelloe, the eponymous label was launched in 1979. Since then, it has built a significant following for its garments – made with luxurious fabrics nuanced by British design and creativity – with the design aesthetic hinging on “unique handcrafting and tailoring techniques.”
With nearly 40 years under his belt, Costelloe has carved a niche for himself as one of Britain and Ireland’s noted names in the fashion industry. During his career spanning over three decades, Costelloe has designed uniforms for British Airways and uniforms for the Irish Olympic Team in Athens, Greece. His SS16 collection, “New Reflections,’ is a nod to the 60s and features neoprene fabrics in bright palette that bring to the fore strong elements of tailoring through statement sharp coats, playful jumpsuits and A-line dresses.
What were the key moments of career & life spanning over three decades?
There have been a few key moments within my career but dressing Diana, Princess of Wales, for over 10 years was a very special time. She was a unique character and was always a pleasure to work with.
Who were your early influences in fashion and what fascinated you most about their designs?
French designer André Courrèges was a huge source of inspiration in the mid 60’s in Paris for me. His sculpted designs, use of (at the time) futuristic fabrics was extremely fascinating; I still incorporate what I learnt from him into my designs today. My SS2016 Collection was a homage to his legacy.
What is the key to overcoming challenges with regard to the fashion industry?The fashion industry is a constant mixture of ups and downs. You have to be resilient to stay on top of it. But the fact that I’m still working and the name is still out there is something to be proud of.
How would you describe your design philosophy?
Supreme tailoring using the best quality fabrics, but keeping it affordable.
What do you do in your downtime?
I am a painter first, so finding the time while I’m travelling to sit and sketch/paint can be relaxing. I love the cinema and I keep up-to-date with newly released movies etc. I like to go on a Monday night with my wife and whichever of my 7 children are free to join. I found much of my inspiration for my AW 2016 Collection from watching Mad Max on a flight to Thailand…you can learn a lot on a long-haul flight!
What inspired your SS RTW?
It was a real nod to the 60s and the time of Courrèges. I experimented with neoprene fabrics in bold colors, but still incorporating my philosophy for supreme tailoring. I manufacture most of my collections between the UK and Italy. The Italians have a natural understanding for tailoring and fabrics, so this collection was a lot of fun to work on.
What kind of creative outlets help you create each collection afresh?
I travel constantly. I reinvent myself and my collections every season, and the inspiration always comes from a different source. Going to the fabric fairs and trade shows, shows me what colors and materials are coming in. But being aware of other creative outlets, be it photography, film or art are big sources of inspiration.
What tips would you offer to aspiring designer?
I see a lot of graduates who come out of college thinking they have everything they need to succeed but in many cases, the basic skills are very undeveloped. Don’t start out thinking you’re going to be a fashion designer – learn to draw, learn to make a toile, learn to sew, learn about fabrics, learn about finance, whatever it is, with any of these skills you can make it in the industry. Maybe you won’t be able to create a successful brand but if you have those skills, you will always be in demand.
How important is practical experience for a designer?
Extremely important! At the end of the day, it’s a combination of natural talent and then developing that talent in a real work-environment, which really gives that confidence and knowledge to take on your own brand or label. Understanding all the facets of the design, manufacturing and retail process is essential – from understanding fabrics and materials to knowing the best regions for manufacturing different garments and having a clear idea of where you want your product to sit. This all takes time.
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