‘Oh my, aren’t they a lovely pair of dimples you have there!’ Paul Costelloe drawls in his rich Irish accent as he comes bounding over at the pop-up shop for Paul Costelloe MAN. It’s not quite the opening that you expect from a high-end fashion designer, but it’s certainly the quickest icebreaker for an interview I’ve ever had.
I start by complimenting him on his fantastic spring/summer ’12 collection that we were treated to earlier on Friday morning at his residence opening slot of London Fashion Week.
Not being a fan of spring/summer clothes, with it being all pastels and femininity, I find it veers away too much from my black and navy palette, but the designs were right up my street with babydoll dresses and strong structured shapes making dominant statements in his womenswear. He is genuinely pleased with my well-deserved compliment.
Getting the worst, most predictable, but also essential question out of the way, I cringe as I prime to ask him about his inspirations for the MAN collection. No need as he launches into a monologue of such inspirations: ‘Do you remember the coffee advert from about 20 years ago? It’s a wet sunny day and the man exudes masculinity, he doesn’t give a fuck about his clothes but he looks good. He wears the clothes, it’s not a case of the clothes wearing him… Ewan McGregor is the sort of guy I draw my inspiration from, masculine and doesn’t give a fuck, just wears what he wants.’
Being primarily interested in womenswear, I have to ask how different the creative process is for designing for women who do give a fuck about what they wear compared to Costelloe’s vision of his MAN. ‘It’s very different, women have a much more disposable view to clothes. They’ll wear it for a season or two and then it’s on to the next trend. Trends for men change every two years at most.’
So how does he manage to keep his ideas fresh, particularly with men’s trends needing to stay classic?
‘Womenswear needs more work as you can push the designs so much further. Menswear is just so much easier to design, I don’t even think about it. Although it applies to menswear and womenswear, I can keep it fresh by really investing in quality fabrics and experimenting here for menswear. Menswear needs really good fabrics, that’s what really counts.’
Whatever his notions are behind his collections, I know that the shapes, colours and opulence of the fabrics are what have made Costelloe’s collections so prominent and a London Fashion Week staple that I know will stand firmly as one of my favourites.
We bid our goodbyes and whilst quaffing some more champagne he insists on having our photo taken together before complimenting me yet again, this time on my nose (this is the third). This really is an exchange of compliments rather than a full scale interview, that leaves me not only admiring the success and longevity of Costelloe, but also what a warm and grounded person he really is.