You could say that Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra, the talented duo behind Costello Tagliapietra, were destined to go into fashion. “Ironically we both had grandmothers who were seamstresses for the great Norman Norell (at different times though),” say the designers. “We grew up around sewing machines and pattern tables—it was just what we did!”
There’s no doubt that this life-long experience in the techniques of pattern making and construction shows, especially in their recent diffusion line, C&T Costello Tagliapietra. Comprised of show-stopping dresses, their exquisitely crafted collection—exclusive to Barneys New York—focuses on fine fabric, delicate draping and sophisticated silhouettes.
As for their own style, they say, “We like to think of our style as an amalgam of lumberjack and science professor—with a little River Phoenix in ‘My Own Private Idaho‘ and Richard Burton in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf‘ thrown in.” But don’t let their burly look fool you—these men are true masters of modern elegance.
Below, the dream team dishes on their journey into fashion, the inspiration for their collection and what’s up next.
How did you guys meet? Tell us about your early days.
Robert: We met in October of 1994 while I was at Parsons studying painting and Jeffrey was working on custom wardrobes. We began working together shortly afterwards. When we met, Jeffrey was finishing up costumes for Madonna’s “Bedtime Story” video, which I gladly helped with. This led to more collaborative projects and before we knew it, we were just working together. For years we were fortunate to have the opportunity to work with amazing artists on their wardrobes and costumes. Then in 2004, with the encouragement of a few stylists we had been working with, we put together a small capsule that American Vogue wrote up in its March 2004 issue. The dream came true and the rest was history.
If you could style anyone, who would it be?
It is always great to have the opportunity to collaborate directly with an artist, whoever it is. It is such a different process than designing a collection. There are so many great girls we would love to work with, but I think it would be super exciting to style a whole movie. Of course we would love to have women like Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie in it.
Who are some of your earliest influences?
We love Madame Grès, Jean Muir, Adrian, Geoffrey Beene, and Halston. We adore the tradition of American sportswear, and are in awe of the techniques of the early- and mid-20th century Europeans. We always saw our own brand as a reflection of those two ideals.
Who is the C&T Costello Tagliapietra woman?
She loves the art of getting dressed—she’s as much playful and confident as she is sensual and elegant.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
We always think of ourselves as sieves of culture, music, art, movies and the street—they all work their way into what we do. At the core, we are process driven, influenced by the techniques of pattern making and dressmaking we gleaned as children from our grandmothers.
How do you spend your time when you’re not designing?
With our bulldog Sammy and taking trips upstate.
What are some of your favorite pieces from your collection sold at Barneys?
It is so hard to choose, we love all of our ladies the same. There is so much work involved in the pattern making and draping processes that you get to fall in love with each dress separately and uniquely. And now we get to share that love with all the Barneys’ women!
What’s up next for you two?
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra.