With the Winter 2011 season starting in New York, I thought I'd post a Q&A with Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa. Calvin Klein is, after all, one of the most quintessential American fashion labels. Here, Costa talks about his career, creative process and what it means to be a fashion designer working today.
Blue Carreon: When did you first realize that you have made it big?
Francisco Costa: I won't say I'm big at all. There is so much to do everyday. In fact, I am feeling very small today. You just love what you do, do it and don't put a measure into it.
BC: Did you ever consider doing your own line?
FC: I thought about doing my own line but doing this job at Calvin Klein became like doing my own thing. I was very lucky to be able to do my own thing (here), to interpret it instead of copying what Calvin's done. I am very comfortable here.
BC: How do you react to negative reviews?
FC: My first reviews were horrible. I had the most tragic review from WWD. I showed the line and the next morning I had to give a presentation to the international press. I walked in talking to everybody, so animated and people were looking at me funny. When I picked up the paper in the afternoon, it was a killer. It slashed my throat. It was terrible. But you move on.
BC: But there have been more good reviews than bad ones though...
FC: I have been acknowledged so much. The industry has been so good to me. Everybody has been so supportive. The reviews -- when you put something out there, expect to be judged. It's part of the job.
BC: What about being compared to Calvin Klein?
FC: I don't think you can compare me to Calvin. He is just great. He's a genius. He has a legacy of work, a huge body of work. You cannot compare really because he is just unique. And it's not fair because he has 35 years to back him up.
BC: What is the toughest challenge you have to face as a designer in a house rich with history?
FC: It's very tempting and an easy thing to just bring back the archives. That challenges me. I find that most difficult. I find it insulting to the house and insulting to myself. For me to take it forward -- that is Calvin -- to look forward. So for me to look back and just copy something, then I am not doing my job. It's always about evolving, of creating a language even if you have no idea what it is.
BC: And of course the challenge to put something new each time you produce a collection...
FC: To excite people is a very challenging thing because everything's already been done. How do you become creative about the business? What does it take to look forward and make it into the future?
BC: How do you get to the next level? What is your creative process like?
FC: I get drawn to things that I love, by the experiences I've had in life. Process is unique in its own way. Whenever I look at something, I always want to know what's inside it. I want to dissect it. See the lining of it, the insides. The three dimensions of things are very exciting.
BC: Fashion, American fashion to be specific, seems to be more accepting of other races and cultures especially with the rise of Asian American and Latin American designers -- immigrants -- such as yourself...
FC: The rise of all these young designers with such different ethnic backgrounds represents America at its best. It's a land of immigrants. This country was created based upon freedom and democracy. That's why we love being here. That's why we love and honor it. I feel 100 per cent American and I feel great love and respect for this country because it has given so much to me.
BC: What advice would you give all these young and up and coming designers?
FC: Based on my own experience -- just keep on working, just keep doing it. Just follow your own thing and that will show up sometimes. I believe in action and movement.
BC: And what about your own plans for the future?
FC: There is still so much for me to do. As designers in a very business oriented environment, we are under a lot of pressure. While doing this we also try to achieve greatness. When I look at the big picture, there's a place there for everyone, there's a place for me.