This past weekend, the fashion crowd made its annual pilgrimage to Savannah, Georgia for Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)'s senior fashion show--and this year I had the pleasure of being a part of it.
Aside from the talented graduating students themselves, the weekend's man of the hour was Calvin Klein Collection's Women's Creative Director Francisco Costa, who came in straight from Cannes to receive the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award on stage before the show began. Additionally, the SCAD Museum of Art staged an exhibition (in Talley's namesake gallery) of his spring 2013 collection as well as several of his most iconic red carpet looks--including Katie Holmes's Met Gala dress (see photos taken with my iPhone below).
Earlier that day, Costa also sat down with former Essence EIC Constance White for an on-stage discussion about his career. In need of even more Costa time, I sat down with the designer--who is refreshingly sweet and humble--in the sun-drenched lobby of the Andaz Savannah, where we chatted about Savannah, his own fashion education, career challenges, future collaborations and celebrity dressing--including his experience outfitting a few A-listers for this month's Met Gala.
Here's what we learned.
When Tom Ford called offering Costa a Gucci job, Costa initially said no (he was working at Balmain under Oscar de la Renta at the time):
"I got a phone call from this lady and I didn’t understand what she was talking about," he told Constance White. "I was in the middle of collections; it was about January; this lady was telling me, 'I want you to meet somebody, I want you to meet Tom Ford,' and I said, 'Why?' At the time I didn’t want another job, I was very happy there, so I said no, then she called again, I said no again...I didn’t really know how to go about it. I was so at ease and comfortable being with Oscar."
Later at the show, before introducing Costa and after thanking SCAD for naming a gallery after him, Andre Leon Talley told the audience that he was the one that convinced Costa to take the job. He regaled:
The only question I asked [Costa, who was based in Paris at the time,] was, 'Do you have a place to live?' And he pulled out a loose leaf binder that Tom Ford had organized with fabulous [London] residences and addresses for him. 'Of course,' I say to Francisco, 'you must take this job. It’s an opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime; it’s not a golden door; it's a golden gate.'
After gushing about SCAD, which he was visiting for the first time--"It’s just a world; it’s amazing; the campus is gorgeous; I'm very impressed!"--Costa told us about his own fashion design education, which sort of happened by accident.
I was studying English at Hunter and taking classes at FIT at night and I was a part of this contest where FIT students were chosen to go to Italy and develop a collection. I submitted my sketches and they couldn’t find me [in their records] because I was a continuing education student--I wasn’t full time. Finally they found me [in their records] and they actually made an exception and let me be a part of the contest. I won the contest and then I got a scholarship, so I ended up finishing school during the day time. It was a fun, interesting trajectory.
He also wasn't chosen for FIT's fashion show, and didn't go to graduation:
[FIT] helped me and guided me, but at the same time, I wasn’t even chosen for the fashion show and I did not attend my graduation at the time, and later on--five years ago--FIT gave me this award and wanted me to talk to the students at the graduation, so it was like, I feel like I’m graduating now, 10 years later.
On his biggest challenge:
I haven't experienced any detrimental challenge. I’m very positive, so if one door is closed, you open the next one. I really feel that way. For instance, maybe when Calvin sold the company--I had been working for Calvin for a year and a half, and all of a sudden, he sold the company, and the whole studio decided to leave because they felt that things would change and a lot of people didn’t want to stay, and I said, 'I’m staying.' That was a challenge, but I didn’t blink, I just went for it.
His favorite red carpet moment was Jennifer Lawrence's first Oscars (that amazing red dress):
I think Jennifer was amazing just for the fact that she came out of nowhere and her image was so different than how she had been portrayed and it made such a statement and I thought she was so beautiful. Everything worked, the hair, everything was amazing.
Costa also told us about dressing Olivia Wilde, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Katie Holmes for this year's punk-themed Met Gala. He said Holmes was initially supposed to wear a different dress:
She had fitted the dress, loved the dress, and I said, at the last minute, I have another dress I'd like to try, and she says, 'Oh my god, I like this dress better' and she really brightened up, so I said, 'That’s the one we have to go with.' [The original dress was] beautiful, very much like the spring collection that’s in the exhibition--it’s a beautiful bustier, deep green, with a peplum and a separate skirt.
Oh and he completely disregarded the punk theme:
Who wants to look at a theme? It’s not about a theme when you’re getting dressed; it’s about looking beautiful; it’s about looking gorgeous.
As for what's next, expect another mass collaboration in the near future:
I just did this line for Macy’s, I’m in the process of doing another line for somebody else, with another company, through Calvin.
Target? H&M? We're definitely intrigued.