Bonus: What's Michael Up To?
What do you think Michael Costello was up to after the “Project Runway All Stars” Season 1 Finale? Crying in a corner over his third place finish? Hell no! Homeboy was sipping piña coladas poolside in Hawaii as he took a phone call with yours truly. In an exit interview, I get Michael to name drop a little, forgive me for any shortage of bloggy adoration and shares some pictures of him and some familiar faces.
Lisa Raphael: When I met you at the Miss Piggy/Paley Center event, you talked to me about your experience on “Project Runway” Season 8, where you were open about your mother’s acceptance of you; how has your relationship been with your mom since?
Michael Costello: She’s a little more involved now. She always comes up to me [and my designs] and is like, “you should put sleeves on this,” “you should make the sleeve longer,” “you shouldn’t show so much skin because God’s going to get mad.” Yeah that’s what she tells me, she’s like, “why does the slit on that have to be so high?” “Can you put a lining so her nipples don’t show.”
So she’s like your Joanna Coles when Joanna Coles isn’t around?
She is! My mom is so Joanna Coles, except without the Joanna Coles' style.
The fans always seem really touched by your friendship with Mondo. Did your time on “All Stars” strengthen or hurt your relationship?
It definitely strengthened the relationship. We went in it to win it, both of us. From day one, we said this is all about me and you, our goal is just to keep beating everyone out and us making it to the final. We made a pact.
People didn’t know that we couldn’t talk about it before. I didn’t call him and ask him if he got the call to be on “All Stars” and he didn’t call me and ask me if I got the call. We would mention little things here and there, like I’d throw certain dates at him and say “hey, are you going to be in New York at this time? Are you going to be in L.A. at this time? I’m booked for this, I’m booked for that, can you come?” We were both thinking exactly the same thing but we never gave into it. So when we did see each other [that first moment on “PRAS”], what you saw was real and we were just really happy to see each other!
We’re both divas, a kind of odd “Bert and Ernie married couple.” When we’re around each other, we want to do everything together; we want to drink together, go out together, shop together, hang out with the same people together and we do all the same things together. Totally different aesthetics, totally different personalities but our friendship really is genuine. The thing is, I wish I could’ve won and he didn’t! [Laughs]
But you have some other things up your sleeve. You’re always on the go, always!
Oh my God, I’m so not disappointed about not winning. It’s not bothering me; I think the thing that bothers me is because I just wanted to work closer with Ken Downing, who I do keep in contact with. And that is all because of Joanna Coles.
At the final “Project Runway All Stars” fashion show, Joanna came up to me and said, “If you’re smart, which I know you are and you probably already have a trick up your sleeve, the best thing for you to do is go and talk to Ken Downing. Get his phone number because he talked to me personally and told me how much he loved your collection, so you should talk to him.” And I did. I don’t have fear about talking to people or any of that kind of stuff so I went up to him and said, “Listen. I love the critique you gave me, I thought it was wonderful and I’d still love to do something with you. When I went back to New York in September for the “Project Runway” Season 9 Finale Fashion Show during Fashion Week, we were at the Tommy Hilfiger show together.
I remember when you won the Miranda Kerr challenge, one of the other designers said to you, “oh now you can say that you designed for a celebrity” but you’ve had celebrity clientele for years, correct?
Yes. I opened up a store when I was 15-years-old and met Toni Braxton. She came in one day when she was in Palm Springs and she was looking around and she had a little baseball cap on and I didn’t know it was her and then she was on the phone arguing with somebody about something and I looked at her and I was blown away. I was like, “I’d love to work with you!” And now we have an 11-year relationship together.
Then with Celine Dion, I went to her concert in Los Angeles and my mom was with me and we were really persistent and I made this sketchbook with her face in every illustration and somehow we were able to get a picture with Celine Dion and her assistant was there. My mom went up to the assistant and she said, “Michael would really like to do something for her” and she said, “well who’s Michael?” and she said, “that’s my son, he’s 14-years-old.” And the assistant was blown away. So I met her and Celine was asking me if I sew and I said I didn’t, I can only drape and cut and that sort of thing but I made six dresses for her for two years and she wore them to different places.
What years was that?
This was like ’97 and ’98. That’s going way back but since then, I’ve worked with Michelle Williams, Paulina Rubio in a Dr. Pepper commercial.
Did you do stuff with Paris Hilton too?
Yeah I did, in 2002, I made a dress for her to wear to the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. In 2004, I made a dress for her to wear to her book signing in Los Angeles. In 2007, Nicole Richie came and shopped at my boutique… you want the date? It was June 8th, 2007. Do you want to hear something funny? I know the date because it’s posted in MySpace pictures.
I worked on the website for "Project Runway" Season 8 so I had to do all this research on you and I remember that and being really blown away by the people you’ve worked with. But then I watched Season 8 and when people were kind of picking on you, I was like, “Why doesn’t he say, ‘Eff you guys! I did billboards for Toni Braxton where she’s wearing my designs!” Why didn’t you do that?
I don’t know, I just didn’t want to be that guy who just brags about my work because I just always thought it was so unprofessional. But you know, I wish I was a little more of a diva on Season 8. I probably would’ve made it to the finale.
You have a very interesting quality; where you seem dramatic on TV but then you also have this incredibly calming power. Especially when you were between Austin and Mondo in the finale you weren’t throwing anyone under the bus, you didn’t rat people out, you stayed true and kind of diffused the situation.
I think it all has to do with how I was raised. I don’t like to make trouble, I don’t know why but I always try to fix things. I’ve noticed that now about myself in the past year that I’m always trying to fix something. I’m always trying to make sure everything’s okay with everyone. I think it’s more of a comforting thing so I can be able to finish my stuff better. I hate tension and drama and yelling, it’s really uncomfortable and it’s always unimportant.
With me being dramatic, I think that has a lot to do with facial expressions but people have to understand that this is not a small thing, this is f***ing “Project Runway”! It’s a huge deal and there are some who don’t get and they need to stop and get it. So of course when Diane von Furstenberg compliments your work, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of, it’s kind of like a smack in the face. It’s like, wow, that happened. I guess that would be dramatic.
Did Diane von Furstenberg end up contacting you?
I ran into her September at Fashion Week in the Meatpacking District right outside her store this is the best story ever, I love this. My friend was with me, my model, and we were going out for Fashion’s Night Out. We were driving towards Diane’s place, we look outside and I see her just getting ready to cross the street so I tell the cab driver, “Stop the car!” And he’s like, “I can’t stop here!” And I’m like, “Uh yeah you can so we jumped off the car and I ran up and gave her a hug and she got so scared but then she looked at my face and was like, “Oh, hi baby, how are you? Great to see you.” I said, “It’s so good to see you and I’m going to call you!” And she said, “You better call me!”
That’s exciting, do you think you will really work with her?
Now that I think about it, I’m so involved in my own thing and my own career. I am getting by, I’m doing good, things are wonderful… I don’t know if I would drop all of that for the position to work for Diane because I know I wouldn’t be working directly with her. I mean, I said before it was my goal to move to New York, get a job with Diane von Furstenberg, work under her for so long and chalk up some experience but I don’t think of the qualifications you’d need to get that job. You would have to be an expert pattern maker, a graduate of Parsons or some design school thing. The way I do things would never work there unless I was working directly with Diane.
Well you seem to be doing your own thing and doing well with it!
Yeah, I don’t want to stop. I feel like I’m on a roll.