Francisco Costa (designer)

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Francisco Costa
Francisco Costa Nicole Trunfio 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Francisco Costa and Nicole Trunfio at the Vanity Fair party for the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
Born (1964-05-10) May 10, 1964 (age 54)
Minas Gerais, Brazil[1]
EducationFashion Institute of Technology
AwardsCooper-Hewitt National Fashion Design Award, 2009, Council of Fashion Designers America Womenswear Designer of the Year, 2006 and 2008[2]

Francisco Costa (born 10 May 1964)[1] is a Brazilian designer and the Women's Creative Director of Calvin Klein Collection.[2] Costa won the Council of Fashion Designers America (CFDA) award for Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2006[3] as well as in 2008. Costa also won the National Design Award in 2009 in the category of Fashion Design.

Youth, education, and training[edit]

Costa is the second youngest of five children. He grew up in Guarani, Brazil, where his mother, Maria-Francisca, owned a children's wear factory. She began her business producing dresses commissioned by a traveling salesman. Costa's father, Jacy Neves da Costa, ran a small ranch. In his hometown of 8,000 people, Costa put on fashion shows for charities. His size is compact and he has brown eyes. Being civic minded by nature, his mother was like the mayor of the town. She presided over her family. Costa remembers there being fifteen people at his family's lunch table.

Following his mother's death in 1981, he left with a friend for New York City in 1985.[4] He was twenty-one[4] and spoke no English at the time. He enrolled in a language class at Hunter College and took courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology at night. He obtained employment with Herbert Rounick, whose Seventh Avenue (Manhattan) company made dresses for Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass. Costa went to work for de la Renta after Rounick's death, designing for the firm's Japanese licenses. Costa credits de la Renta with teaching him the most about both designing clothes and life. He remained with the company for five years.

Women's Creative Director, Calvin Klein Collection[2][edit]

Klein's partner, Barry Schwartz, brought Costa's name to Klein's attention in 2001.[1] Costa became the principal designer for the women's[2] Calvin Klein Collection at the age of 39,[1] in September 2003. Earlier in the year Klein sold his company to Phillips-Van Heusen[5] for approximately $730 million.[1] Costa joined the Klein design group in 2001 after working for Gucci,[6] where he was an assistant to Tom Ford.[5] Their first collaboration is known as the Cher Collection.[1] Costa was mentioned as a possible replacement when Ford retired from designing for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, in late 2003.[5]


  • Cooper-Hewitt National Fashion Design Award, 2009[2]
  • Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Womenswear Designer of the Year, 2006 and 2008[2]

Fashion collections 2004–2007[edit]

He emphasized trouser suits for women as opposed to ruffles in the spring 2004 collections. His creations stress the idea of freedom in dress with female underpinnings. With evening dresses Costa's designs reveal both flesh and underpants, often accentuated by the cool hues of the sea. He is not uptight concerning nudity and lingerie. Costa prefers sensuality in sexual imagery as opposed to the more explicit ads used to market Calvin Klein clothes formerly.

For 2004 his models wore stretch bras and underpants in foundation colors. Costa utilized a clingy, transparent material for daytime skirts. He combined them with cashmere tops, which sometimes gave the look an artificial quality. Costa's loose cotton shorts, modelled with cardigan sweaters, were layered over rumpled white shirts and men's ribbed undershirts. This look reflected the late 1970s styles when designers like Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis came to prominence.[6]

Costa maintains a ledger-size mood book in his studio. In early 2004 photographs of horses by Max Eastman appeared frequently in these volumes. Costa is inspired by the coats of horses, especially in his palettes of sepia and cream. The textures of his collection owe much to pony skin, alpaca, and leather. He enjoys photographs of Lauren Hutton and Charlotte Rampling from the 1970s, particularly ones which have them posed in close proximity with ponies and stallions. Costa said, These women are thoroughbreds.[7]

In the fall of 2004 Costa introduced washed silk dresses and black wool felt coats. The clothing was given weight by the librarian brogue heel, variations of which first appeared at Calvin Klein. The style was exceedingly popular during both the Paris, France and Milan, Italy shows.[8]

In his collection for Spring 2005 Costa showed a sea-green silk dress wrapped like a towel. An alternative of the dress, of like color and style, was unveiled on the runway in September 2004. The silk dress was coveted by many buyers and was shipped to stores in the late fall and early winter.[9]

The original inspiration for this collection were primitive wood sculptures by Brâncuși. After spending a week in Wyoming Costa aspired to capture the surreal hues of green, blue, and orange, which he had observed juxtaposed with the western landscape at Yellowstone National Park. Costa purchased silk and viscose jersey (clothing) in the garment center of New York City. He had these dyed to match the colors he had photographed in Wyoming. Next he pinned the fabrics on a model, blending and shaping the patterns until he was pleased with their natural effect. The evening dresses he designed were uncomplicated. They were based on a trapeze, combining viscose jersey with silk to make them appear lively.[10]

Vogue and Harper's Bazaar chose a lime green dress worn by Elle Macpherson as a highlight of 2005. Both publications named her to their best dressed lists after she wore the Costa design, which she combined with casual flats. Macpherson asked Costa to pick the color and he selected lime green. It was especially attractive on her because of her skin color.[11]

Costa's new collection for Calvin Klein was criticized by critic, Cathy Horyn, for conveying largely a surface beauty. She wrote about his February 2006 showing in the New York Times. It featured dresses with many layers of black chiffon and tulle. Horn pointed out that Calvin Klein is a sportswear house, not a dress house, and Costa has a talent for designing sportswear. His collection was reminiscent of the 1930s, with shapes which were long and relaxed. The models wore chiffon bras with tiny handkerchief points of chiffon on their dresses, which extended nakedly across their backs. Horn wondered if many women would not find the fashions untenable and fussy, if not stifling."[12]

In May 2006 Costa served as chairman of a benefit for the Whitney Museum of American Art. He conceived a project for the museum which created art out of fashion. He approached artists Ghada Amer, Vik Muniz, and Billy Sullivan about making art which would be clearly identified with fashion. After showing at the Whitney Art Party, the work was moved and displayed in the windows of the Calvin Klein boutique on Madison Avenue (Manhattan).[13]

Costa designed a line of long slim dresses and pantsuits which were introduced in September 2007. They were constructed of white stretch cotton. His collection featured long stretch silk T-shirts in egg-wash shades of green or blue. The colors accentuated the refreshing impression of the lines, especially Costa's spare evening halters worn with high-waist silk trousers and a strapless dress of pale jade organza. Reviewer Horyn had only one criticism of a collection she believes will gain more meaning with time. This was Costa's failure to notice that the hemlines of his dresses should have been longer.[14]

Private life[edit]

As of May 2004 Costa's partner was horse trainer John DeStefano Jr. The two had been together fourteen years. Costa donned a coat and tie to join DeStefano for opening day at Belmont Park, where the latter had horses running in the eighth and ninth races.[15] Costa and DeStefano met at George Smith, the furniture store where Costa worked on Saturdays to supplement the salary he earned on Seventh Avenue.


  1. ^ a b c d e f What Comes Between Costa And His Calvins?, New York Times Magazine, Spring 2006, pgs. 210-215.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Celebrates Winners and Finalists of the 10th Annual National Design Awards" (PDF). Cooper-Hewitt. September 21, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-31.
  3. ^ Jim Shi, "Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa Triumphs at The CFDA Awards", Daily Front Row, June 6, 2006
  4. ^ a b Sarah Bailey, "Costa's Calvin Klein", Harper's Bazaar, April 22, 2008
  5. ^ a b c Gucci's Choice For Designer Needs Sketches, and Charisma, New York Times, November 6, 2003, pg. C1.
  6. ^ a b Calvin Klein's Successor Loosens The Corset Laces, New York Times, September 18, 2003, pg. B7.
  7. ^ Bless This Mess, New York Times, February 8, 2004, pg. 9.1.
  8. ^ Accessorizing With Punch, New York Times, March 16, 2004, pg. B.8.
  9. ^ Shh! Just Pretend You've Never Seen Those Styles, New York Times, September 7, 2004, pg. A1.
  10. ^ "All the Pretty Clothes. And Then, Calvin Klein, New York Times, September 16, 2004, pg. B.11.
  11. ^ The Good, The Bad And the Huh?, New York Times, January 5, 2006, pg. G.1.
  12. ^ Evolution on the Runway; Room to Grow, New York Times, February 11, 2006, pg. B.20.
  13. ^ Using a White Shirt As Their Canvas, New York Times, May 11, 2006, pg. G.6.
  14. ^ Horyn, Cathy (September 13, 2007). "Designers in a Time of Many Dresses, Some Terrific". The New York Times. p. B.8.
  15. ^ Horyn, Cathy (May 11, 2004). "With the Clotheshorses Of the Backstretch". The New York Times. p. B.11. Quote: Francisco Costa, the designer at Calvin Klein, does not ordinarily go to Belmont Park on a Wednesday, but it was opening day, and John De Stefano Jr., a horse trainer who has been his companion for 14 years, had horses running in the eighth and ninth races.

14.^ a b c d Francisco Costa Biography, VOGUE.COM, July 2010.

External links[edit]