Francisco Costa At Calvin Klein
28 Artists and Two Saints, a collection of essays by the New Yorker’s dance critic, Joan Acocella, explores what it is that makes great artists great. Culling from her large archive of New Yorker profiles on everyone from Baryshnikov to James Joyce, she found three virtues appearing again and again: patience, resilience and courage.
Perhaps no three words can better describe the life and career of Calvin Klein’s creative director, Francisco Costa. Besides his successful takeover at Klein, his nearly flawless reviews, his two CFDA awards, and his collaboration with The Whitney Museum of American Art, he has most recently received The National Design Award from The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum.
A fair litany for a boy from small-town Brazil who came to New York at aged 20 after his mother’s death with no money, connections, or knowledge of the English language. He studied English at Hunter College and fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He landed his first job for a Seventh Avenue company that made dresses for Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta, the latter by whom he would be hired to create his Japanese licenses. Tom Ford came calling next and recruited him to work at Gucci. And then in 2003 at the age of 42, he was tapped as Mr. Klein’s successor.
It all sounds terribly charmed, but Costa’s rise came as much through his talent as it was through his hard work and determination, which has been put to the test since he arrived at Calvin Klein. New management missteps crippled Costa’s ability to produce and market his line. The global recession hasn’t helped much either. But where other designers might throw in the towel, Costa has persevered, helping to expand a brand that is all sex, tees, and jeans into something if not better, ingenious in its own right.
By David Meyer, an American writer and art enthusiast based in Paris.