Michael Costello’s strong passion and refreshingly inclusive philosophy shines through his every endeavor. It’s exactly what you’ll see come El Paseo Fashion Week.
This year, the Emmy-award winner and Project Runway alumnus will return for a twelfth year at the 16th annual El Paseo Fashion Week in his hometown of Palm Springs to present a show on March 19.
From opening his first boutique at 15 years old in the city to welcoming his own star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, Costello returns to the city full of nostalgia.
“Every time I get the opportunity to be asked to come and show or do a fashion show it's always a yes for me, and I want to continue to do that with Palm Springs as much as I can,” he tells Angeleno during a recent Zoom call.
He continues to reflect on his hometown: “Every time I do get a chance to go back, all the childhood memories come back – first girlfriend, first boyfriend, first kiss, first all this. Growing up in Palm Springs, it's nice to go back and see all my friends, all my family, all the people who have supported me from day one in my career.”
Taking a new approach to the show this year, Costello is abandoning the concept of a collection. Instead, his mission was to “just wanted to make pieces that I love and beautiful things that you can wear forever.” Still, the pieces do have an overarching imaginative theme. Inspired by a celestial moon goddess, the designs include plenty of metallics, black, blue, silver and gold in fun pieces and mini-skirt lengths.
Costello’s passion and appreciation for the art of fashion itself are apparent. He considers the current state of the industry and concludes, “The thought process and design process seems to have disappeared. We're all trying to create something that is a reflection of Schiaparelli, Gucci, Versace or something couture, one-of-a-kind, in the fast-fashion world so people can get it, wear it and post it on Instagram, and I feel like people got lost in that. They forgot to focus on how beautiful fashion is when you take your time, it can be when you create just beautiful moments, beautiful pieces of art. That's kind of what I wanted to do for this time around.”
Known for his history of showcasing body positivity over his years of designing, Costello doesn’t identify with the trailblazer label he says he is often given.
“I don't think being positive about somebody's body should be a trend,” he says. “I think we should just celebrate a woman for who she is, no matter how she's built, what she is shaped like or what she looks like.”
He adds that diversity and size-inclusivity has also always been a part of his philosophy, “When there was a stereotype about designers only having one black model, when you look at a Costello show, you would always see eight, nine, ten or twelve, as many as we can get because – not to sound cliche – we just really, really love everyone and I like seeing my fashion on the people who are going to buy it, the people who are going to wear it.”
Costello always sees custom designing being a part of his career, not only for the purpose of creating the perfect fit, but also to carry on the unique and authentic experience. It’s a process he champions for all his clients, not just A-listers like Beyonce and Mariah Carey.
“I love that I'm finally at a place to where when a woman comes in and sits down with me, she can share her thoughts on what she wants and then she sees my vision and sees everything and I can get her to try it on. It's like opening up a new world to her, and I love that experience of not just making women feel beautiful, but gaining her trust and confidence and showing her new things that she never thought would work for herself. I love that. That's why I'll always continue to do custom forever.”
Over his career, Costello has also ventured into making his pieces more accessible to the public. This is best exemplified by his successful Michael Costello x Revolve collaboration, which offers his designs at a more affordable price. Because of his values of diversity and size inclusivity, Costello is selective with what brands he partners with.“We want to make sure that we're partnered with brands who support everybody, and we felt like Revolve has always been that brand for us for our ready-to-wear,” he explains.” I mean the prices are fantastic and people can get something that's really great quality.”
Costello shows no signs of stopping having recently launched his Michael Costello brand at Saks Fifth Avenue, something that was once a dream he had written about in a Facebook post 13 years ago. Even still, he experiences pinch-me moments, like seeing his designs next to Halston, a personal inspiration. “I pretty much had a heart attack and almost passed out because Halston is one of my favorite designers,” Costello says. “To see that my clothing was right next to Halston clothing, I guess I would say that would be the first time in my whole entire life that was when I actually felt like, ‘Okay, yeah, I made my mark. This is real. Something happened. I did this.’”
Photography by: Steven Simone; Roger Morales; Yasin Chaudhry