Tag Archives: Fashion Design

PROJECT RUNWAY STAR MICHAEL COSTELLO MAKES IT WORK FOR BEYONCE

On Season 8 of Project Runway, Michael Costello was known as the one who cried a lot. Now he’s known as the designer who created Beyonce’s show-stopping dress for the Grammys this year—along with two dozen slinky costumes for her On the Run tour with Jay-Z. Hue considers that a step up.

Project Runway alum Michael Costello gives students a glimpse of his online presence.

Project Runway alum Michael Costello gives students a glimpse of his online presence. Photo by Smiljana Peros.

Costello, who has almost 592,000 followers on Instagram as of today, and who regularly grosses six figures a month from his L.A. showroom, guest-spoke at Fashion Events Planning Confidential, a class in FIT’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies taught by Barbara Berman, on Wednesday. He gabbed about designing dresses for the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and, of course, the Queen Bey.

The Beyonce dress came about after her stylist, Ty Hunter, scheduled a visit to his showroom. Hunter, always referring to Beyonce as “she,” said, “She wants to be naked. She wants to be sexy. She wants to effortless.”

Costello showed him all 300 dresses in the showroom, but nothing clicked. Hunter asked what he was working on. It was a collection called “Winter Wonderland,” inspired by a recent trip to New York. (Those of us who actually had to live through this past winter might have selected choicer verbiage to describe it.)

Hunter gravitated toward an unfinished white gown made of fabric pieces shaped like flowers and lined with nude mesh. “When we put it on the model, he was like ‘Yesssss,’” Costello recalls.

Beyonce wore Costello's dress for the 2014 Grammy Awards.

Beyonce wore Costello’s dress for the 2014 Grammy Awards. Credit: Getty Images.

But no one told Costello when or whether Beyonce would actually wear the dress. He prayed that she would wear it to the Grammys. She wasn’t on the red carpet, though, and when she did appear, in a smoking La Perla “Cage” vest for her opening act, his heart sank.

Less a minute later, Hunter posted a close-up of the white flower fabric on his Instagram feed and linked to Costello’s page. A few seconds after that, Costello got 5,000 followers.

Once the performance was over, Beyonce appeared in the dress. “After that, it just blew up,” he says.

Costello spent two full hours talking with the class.

Costello spent two full hours talking with the class. Photo by Smiljana Peros.

DESIGNING THE AMERICAN DREAM: ELIE TAHARI

Elie Tahari, the Israeli fashion designer known for the best and worst things a woman could possibly wear to a job interview—the designer suit and the tube top—visited FIT yesterday to celebrate 40 years in fashion.

He was interviewed by Patricia Mears, deputy director of The Museum at FIT, about his career.  He began an impecunious immigrant in New York City, sleeping in Central Park, and slowly built his brand into a $500 million empire.

Elie Tahari shares his wisdom with Patricia Mears in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre at FIT

Elie Tahari shared his wisdom with Patricia Mears in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre at FIT

He said he learned a lot by making clothes at every price point. “It’s easy to do beautiful clothes for $10,000. It’s harder to make clothes for a lot less.”

When a student asked him how to make it in the fashion industry, he replied that the current global market gives every designer, big and small, an equal opportunity. “If you do one good thing well, you have the internet, you have India and China, you have Europe, you have everybody.”

Tahari talked with students at a post-event reception.

Tahari talked with students at a post-event reception.

FIT’S REALITY STARS WERE HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS

“If you get the chance to be on TV, take it!” Cathy Hobbs, Interior Design ’06, advised a group of students and alumni in the John E. Reeves Great Hall on Tuesday. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Hobbs was one of three alumni TV stars invited to talk about their careers in the spotlight on Tuesday, in the culminating event of Alumni Day of Legacy Week. Brian Williams, Fashion Merchandising Management, vice president of alumni affairs for the FIT Student Association, moderated.

All three stars were glad they said yes to the tube.

“TV has made me an international figure,” said Sondra Celli, Menswear Design and Marketing ’78, known for her TLC shows My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding and Bling It On. (When TLC called her about the show, she was initially hesitant.) “I could never have bought this much press.”

“I never thought I’d become a gypsy designer,” Sondra Celli said. “They pulled my name out of someone’s Rolodex and started calling me.”

Hobbs, a TV reporter and finalist on Season 6 of HGTV’s Design Star, remembered the taping process as being incredibly intense. She was picked up in a van and left in a hotel without her cell phone or wallet. “It was like being incarcerated.” And she was miked constantly. Whenever her microphone was off, she was “on ice,” which meant she wasn’t allowed to speak. Oh, and her daughter was one year old at the time.

For Cathy Hobbs, Interior Design ’06, “Reality shows seemed like the shortest line between two points.”

Daniel Silverstein, Fashion Design ’10, found the auditions for Fashion Star very daunting. A casting agent emailed him, offering a VIP interview. When he got to the show, he understood that he might not be so special after all. “There were 100 VIPs and also a line of not-VIPs around the block.”

“Because of the show, I’ve sold to Saks, I’ve sold to Macy’s, I’ve sold to Express,” Daniel Silverstein said. “When I exhibit at trade shows, buyers think, ‘NBC invested in you, so I can too.'”

But all three have survived their dabblings with reality. Celli’s business has expanded by leaps and bounds. Hobbs has a line of paints, with other products coming soon. And Silverstein has already sold a million dollars worth of his product.

As soon as there’s a reality show that pits writers and editors against each other in a series of solitary, internal challenges, Hue is definitely going to audition.

Celli will rhinestone anything: glasses, shoes, even toilet paper. (Honey Boo Boo, eat your heart out.)

WHAT I LEARNED FROM STARTING A MEN’S UNDERWEAR BRAND

Vasumathi Soundararajan, Fashion Design ’10, chief underwearist of the new brand Ken Wroy, recounts her most salient lessons from her first year in business.

When doing market research, sales associates are the best teachers. They do like to talk. I learned all about the brands out there, and the best sellers for each age group, why some brands cost more, etc.

Some people buy expensive underwear, like $60 a pair.

 

Each buyer for a retail store starts with only 20 to 30 pieces. After all the effort of getting the buyer, that number seemed low. But it has pushed me to look for other ways to sell. Also, many of these stores sell on a consignment basis: A shop owner will give me space to display my product, and he pays me based on what I sold for the month. That can still be a great opportunity, though.

I used to wonder why brands spend so much on branding, and whether that was necessary. India isn’t so much into branding, so I didn’t expect that everything would boil down to a brand. Now I understand its importance. Certain demographics won’t even look at underwear if it’s not branded. They won’t even give it a chance.

Another thing I was not ready for was the emotional roller coaster of working for myself.

Underwear is such a small product, one would imagine that a factory could pull it off with no trouble. At every step, I learned not to take anything for granted.

In Tirupur, where my product was being dyed, many dyeing houses were shut down recently because there was no proper chemical treatment plant.

People are not used to women designing for men—it’s almost always the other way around. And they don’t expect an Indian woman behind the work. It’s a conversation starter, an opportunity for me to show that I’m passionate about it.

Vasumathi Soundararajan

Vasumathi Soundararajan, Fashion Design ’10, knows men’s underwear.

TAIWANESE DESIGNER REDEFINES “OUTDOOR FASHIONS”

Hue is crushing on Sophie Hong. The Taiwanese designer, who got her start in the ’70s, creates wearable clothing out of silk dyed using a traditional Chinese technique.

Her unique and beloved silk garments are represented in the Musée Galleria de la Mode et du Costume, a museum of fashion history in Paris.

Her clothes aren’t just meant for runways, so she decided to hold a fashion show outside Cafe Le Nemours in Place Colette in Paris, near her eponymous boutique.

Sophie Hong’s outdoor fashion show. Photo by Liam Cheng.

The show could have been mistaken for a bunch of well-dressed coffee drinkers and umbrella carriers wearing matching chunky clogs, except they were far more orderly than  your average size-zero Parisians. And… it wasn’t raining.

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Hue isn’t the only one who likes Ms. Hong. Last year, she received the National Order of Merit from the French government for her fashion design and her French bookstore in Taipei, Le Pigeonnier (The Dovecote). The shop was founded by her late partner, Francoise Zylberberg.

Sophie Hong at her fashion show in Paris last September. Photo by Lucien Lung.

And the icing on the cake? She spent a month at FIT in 1992 on a scholarship. She says the culture she absorbed while here enhanced her vision. Consider Hue flattered.

Sophie’s portrait by Jacques Camille Picoux.