Two mainstays in American fashion — Maria Cornejo and Francisco Costa — each commemorated their respective new books in Manhattan Thursday night.
Costa, founder of Costa Brazil and former women’s creative director of Calvin Klein, welcomed friends like Drew Vickers, Diego Villarreal, Bryan Liston, Olympia Marie Gayot, Peter Som and Alexandra Agoston to a cocktail party at the new cultural hub WSA. Surrounded by thriving plants in an otherwise raw 30th floor space, Costa said he is working with the space’s new owners, who also developed the resort Palm Heights in Grand Cayman.
Nearby a table held the boxed Rizzoli-published book “555: Revisiting the Fashion Archive of Francisco Costa,” which will be released Nov. 7. After visiting the Calvin Klein archives, Costa, who worked at the company from 2003 to 2016, wondered if there might be a way “to activate the clothes to make them feel [relavent] to today, but also move with energy.” Calvin Klein’s owner PVH Corp. was open to the prospect of using the archives to mine for the book so Costa approached 25 photographers to collaborate. Jamie Hawkesworth and Collier Schorr were among those keen to oblige. Along with Villarreal, Marcelo Gomes, Nick Waplington, Hugh Lippe, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Joel Meyerowitz and Lea Colombo were among the others on board.
Given the ongoing interest in ’90s style, “555” turned out to be even more timely — “100 percent. It’s a deconstructive way of looking at collections that were a type or a name, after a period of time. It’s a book that you have to look at very carefully. Because it’s collaborative, it exudes that freedom. It really makes the work so much more interesting and more forward,” said Costa, whose beauty brand Costa Brazil was shuttered last month by its parent Amyris, which subsequently filed for Chapter 11.
What Costa loved most about the book project was that with every photographer’s work, any sense of time “just disappeared. The longevity of the work, as seen by that young talent, is really unmatched,” he said.
However entrenched he has been in Costa Brazil over the last few years, Costa misses the fashion part of his life. “I do. How could I not? It’s been nearly 30 years. Clothes was really an exploration of my talent and my technique,” he said.
But he feels much more grounded working for himself versus other companies. Citing stops at Tom Ford, Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass, Costa said, “It was always creating other people’s stories. Being at Calvin allowed me to open up that space for me to be on my own, but the brand was and is so iconic. There was nothing to be reinvented at Calvin. That’s’ how I always looked at it. I loved it so much that I didn’t want to touch it to create anything else. To me, it was perfection.”
Although Costa is not in touch with Klein, Klein’s longtime business partner Barry Schwartz turned up at the book party with his wife Sheryl. Costa said what he did at Calvin Klein was “very constructionist. If you opened up some of the clothes, it was just like a car. There was an element of precision and a fetishized thing about it. They were clothes designed to last longer, which is a very sustainable way of thinking, if you think of it.”
As an added indicator of sustainability, a different grade of paper was used to complement each photographer’s sensibility. More like an art piece than a typical book, each one is packaged in a sleek white box with a series of booklets within. Some pages are more glossy, others are super matte. There are layered ones and fold-outs too so that readers will be inclined to stop to consider what they are seeing. Charlotte Cotton curated the book and penned the introduction.
Two other designer guests, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra, said they are relaunching their Costello Tagliapietra women’s collection this spring. Their JCRT men’s line will continue too.
At Dashwood Books on Bond Street Thursday night, Cornejo had another reason to celebrate since the Council of Fashion Designers of America had said earlier in the day that she will be this year’s recipient of the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement award. Friends and fans lined up to have Cornejo and photographer Mark Borthwick each inscribe their copies of the softcover book. Tan and beaming, the designer and the photographer greeted them with Sharpies in hand.
“I really wanted to recapture the energy of 25 years ago. Also, after COVID-19 I wanted to see friends and photograph them. They are different creative types between the ages of 25 and 72,” Cornejo said. “I did it for us as a company to rekindle that joy of working creatively and also with Mark. We are no longer a couple, but it was nice to be able to do a project together.”
The Chile-born designer worked in London, Milan, Paris and Tokyo, before relocating to New York in 1996 and starting her Zero + Maria Cornejo company two years later. She and Borthwick gave themselves a tight window to complete he shoot for the book at her archival space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Over a period of two days, with only one hour allotted for each subject, Cornejo and Borthwick photographed each person wearing re-editions of Zero + Maria Cornejo archival pieces. Chloë Sevigny is featured on the book’s cover, looking downward and standing astride. Readers will also find images of Francesca Sorrenti, Sunrise Ruffalo, Ilya Chaiken, Zora Sicher, Hanna Frolova, Madjeen Isaac, Brooke Williams, Alice Waese, Mia Enell, Silvina Arismendi, Ariel Steinbach and Belle Guinness, among others. Readers will find Cornejo’s quick take on the book’s first page, “25 years ago…Where did the time fly?”
Cornejo said the project was rejuvenating. “I feel it. I don’t know if anyone else is but I don’t give a…,” she said.