Costello Tagliapietra is composed of married designer duo Robert Tagliapietra and Jeffrey Costello, the self-described “bears of Brooklyn.” Known for their signature personal look—which includes burly beards, plaid shirts and suspenders—the longtime New York City residents have been showing lauded collections of exquisitely tailored women's wear since 2005. Shortly before their February MADE Fashion Week runway show, the designers sat down with us to discuss the inspiration for their latest collection, how they got their start and where they like to go near their Carroll Gardens home.
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You obviously give a lot of thought to your collections and your references are always evolving. What was your inspiration for this season? Robert Tagliapietra: It's character-driven in some ways. We were looking to a lot of fairy tales and sci-fi movies to find and understand our woman. It's about her being in control. We wanted the clothes to reflect that energy and power, but still keep the femininity of our brand.
Jeffrey Costello: We were inspired by a lot of vintage military clothes, too.
How does New York City inform your work? RT: We're always looking around. That's one of the amazing parts of New York City: people watching. No matter what street you're on, you're always observing and taking it in. In no other city are people experimenting [to such an extent] with how they portray themselves and how they express themselves through clothing.
Let's talk about your transition from styling artists like Madonna and Nine Inch Nails to creating your own line. What precipitated the move? RT: We met in 1994 at a nightclub that is now defunct, called Sound Factory. We were doing a lot of costumes for celebrities and musicians. We did music videos like Madonna's “Bedtime Story.”
JC: We had some really cool projects. We worked with Nine Inch Nails on their Fragile tour, and it was elaborate. We were always very lucky to get projects that were creative, and a lot of our stylist friends encouraged us [to start our own line]. We put together a small collection and—the naïveté of youth—sent a package of photocopied looks to Vogue. We got a call from their offices and they wrote an article on us, so we always credit American Vogue for starting our ready-to-wear company. We've been showing since then.
You mentioned the Sound Factory, where you both worked in the '90s. What was the City like at the time? RT: I've been here since 1992. It was a different kind of New York—one without luxury buildings in the East Village. There was a certain kind of quirk in the City.
JC: There was grittiness. It was exciting. There have been a lot of closings of clubs in general, but this City will always want nightlife. It's amazing to watch the new generation seek out its own ecosystem at night—that's part of what makes New York so charming. Any night of the week you can figure out something cool to do.
Where do you like to spend your evenings? RT: We always love Le Bain. They do a great job there at night. We love going to restaurants by us in Carroll Gardens. It's been insane to watch that area grow in the past 15 years.
Are there more challenges now that the brand is well-known and sought out? RT: Fashion is tough. There are always challenges. I think if you stay grounded and remain grateful that you get to make pretty things every day, you can manage. You have to love the trial of it as much as the victories.
What are you excited for in the future? RT: We are excited to be blessed to be doing this for as long as we have. We're concentrating on getting the women's clothing really solid and keeping that going, and expanding the brand to menswear and accessories. Jeffery and I are still the core of our brand, so we do almost everything. We've enjoyed having that control. We're growing in a healthy way.