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.
I don't know if you guys can read through the subtlety in my blog posts each week, but I'm a huge Austin Scarlett fan, a love that's burned bright since the very first episode of "Project Runway" and only persisted while watching (the greatest show ever created in the history of the world) "On the Road With Austin & Santino." For our exit interview, I talked to the Season 1 designer about his mustache, putting the Star in All Star and the future of the Dead White Lady Collection.
Lisa Raphael: I loved that clip of you saying that you “put the ‘Star’ in ‘All Star’” and I (clearly) agree with that! Austin Scarlett: In terms of the phrase “star,” I’ve always been inspired by classic Hollywood and the whole attitude of just being really the most beautiful, polished, glamorous you can be at all times. I grew up loving as a little boy watching the movies on Turner Classic Movies and I wanted to be a part of that magical world and that's just part of the aesthetic I love as a designer.
I love to have fun with it too. “Project Runway All Stars,” may not have necessarily captured so much of the humor I have when I go on with all my qualities. I never ever ever take myself that seriously I think fashion is something you should have fun with! It should also be something that boosts confidence, and I think as a role model for young designers out there or gay youth or anyone who may feel a bit different in any way, I have always wanted to project a positive, confident personality to the world out there.
Do you get a lot of response from young designers who look up to you or see themselves in you?
I get a lot of beautiful, beautiful letters from young designers! I think people recognize I’ve never followed anyone else’s drum. I just do my own thing and I’m not apologetic about that and I think a lot of people really admire that, I think it’s a threat to a lot of people, honestly, sometimes I get these really horrible letters. People, I think get, frightened to see someone who can be so different and be confident about it and not apologize for being flamboyant or whimsical or anything like that. The letters from the aspiring designers is probably the best part about the experience.
A lot of people thought Mondo was robbed in Season 8 and that “All Stars” was his to lose, but you won the first challenge ever so you were coming from a different place. Elisa Jimenez told me she thought you should win because it would tell the best story to have you, the designer from the first season, be crowned All Star.
You know, a lot of the people on “All Stars” had great hopes to win their respective seasons and, of course, Mondo was one of the more recent ones. I would have loved to have won but I even before going into the show the first season, I knew they probably wanted a more commercial designer, a more ready-to-wear American sportswear-ish designer. That’s what the American fashion industry is about. My voice as a designer is more couture-oriented, but I decided I was going to maintain that whether or not it meant from winning or compromise my sensibility. For “All Stars,” I wasn’t going to go back in time and not stick with what I know which is the glamour and the romance. [“All Stars”] was simply another great chance to share my voice with the world. Whatever happens at the end of the day, “Project Runway” will always be a truly unique and wonderful passport for creative expression. I think that I was successful in maintaining my voice and projecting what the Austin Scarlett line is all about.
Are you working on a line right now?
Yes, I am going to be debuting a new collection of evening dresses and wedding dresses for Fall 2012. It will definitely be in major department stores and luxury boutiques across the country and there are just a lot of incredible developments that just happened these last few days so I’m really excited about all of it. There will be more information about it coming soon.
Were you surprised at the attention your mustache and not-mustache received during the season?
Yes! I think the hilarious thing is how many people were completely divided as to whether they liked it or not. You know, I love both. I shift between growth, I did think it was funny.
Right now it's 66/34 in favor of you without the mustache on myLifetime.com.
Yeah, I don’t know, I thought with the mustache I felt more distinguished and gentlemanly. I guess imperial and David Bowie-like without.
I can’t believe I missed this but a fan said you were wearing an "Austin & Santino" shirt on one episode. Where do we get those?
I wore it for the Nanette Lepore challenge! Those were made exclusively for the cast and crew of "On the Road With Austin & Santino" and they were given out at the wrap party so they’re not available for public sale. If you become my boyfriend, you may have a chance of wearing it on weekends. Other than that...
That’s a lot of pressure! You were the center of a lot of great All Stars moments, including Anthony Williams’ “dead white lady” comment and then the “Austin Starlett” Isaac Mizrahi slip-up. If you had to use one of the moments from “Project Runway All Stars” to be the theme for a new collection, what would to be?
I definitely think the Austin Scarlett Starlett collection would be fun, more of like a younger sort of party dress/girls' night out collection. Dead White Lady Collection could also be an interesting theme at some point. Dead white ladies have always been a tremendous inspiration to me and will continue to be. Although I like living white ladies too.
One of my favorite moments with you on the show was when you won the Pharrell Williams challenge. You seemed genuinely touched when he complimented you.
Oh my God! I was baffled! For someone like Pharrell who works with the most amazingly-talented people in the entertainment industry. He recognizes star quality, he knows what he’s talking about, so that was tremendous. The fact that he just understood the whole story I was trying to tell was really fantastic. I really can’t wait to work on it. I'm so excited to work on [something with him].
Don't miss one of the best Austin Scarlett videos and view his portfolio of work from this season and past collections here! Read my interview with Mondo here and stay tuned to the blog for Michael's later this week!
Season 8 was the first season of "Project Runway" that I got the opportunity to work on, so my love for Mondo Guerra is most definitely there, even if I haven't written him weekly love letters (okay, okay, or haikus) on this blog. On Friday afternoon, I finally got the chance to have a convo with Mondo — who I've admittedly been at events with for the past two years but am always too shy to chat up. While small in stature, the designer is intimidating in person, always wearing a super cool, crazy outfit, flanked by fabulously-dressed Gaga-lookalikes (his "Little Mondsters," he explains). But really, Mondo is one of the funniest, nicest people I've ever chatted with. Maybe it was because he admitted he was doing the interview in his underwear. Maybe he just really wanted a poem, but either way: my haiku for the deserving "PRAS" winner and below that, my interview with him.
of my grinning houndstooth-ed dreams,
next time I'll say hi!
Lisa Raphael: When all is said and done, what is the most exciting part about the win for you?
Mondo Guerra: One of the most exciting parts was being able to share the experience with Michael Costello.
Tell the fans a little bit more about your friendship — did doing "All Stars" together hurt or strengthen your relationship?
We talk or at least text each other every day! "All Stars" definitely strengthened our friendship. I mean, we were holding each other up throughout the season. I think people kind of got the impression that I was taking advantage of our friendship, but that isn’t the case. I really do value our friendship and Michael understands me quite a bit and I understand him. He understood that I had to take a step back and I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to him or Austin, I just needed some space.
In one of the videos on myLifetime.com, you talk about the inspiration you get from people who send you letters. Where do you find that pick-me-up at that eleventh hour?
On this particular challenge, it just came from all that anxiety and depression and anger and not wanting to be in the competition. I took all of that negative energy and really applied it to something positive, which was the collection which came together really beautifully and I created this “therapy” with everything I was going through. Playing with the ink, and the Rorschach print and being able to do some more artistic stuff, it was very fitting and I think it came off really beautiful.
My favorite dress was the tight number with the Rorschach print on the front with the one red sleeve. Was there any significance with just the red peaking through on the sleeves of some of your looks? I really liked that detail.
Yeah, I had this idea to make it kind of clinical. This is a little morbid, but it was kind of like blood. You got that right? It was cool because initially I was going to put this blue color into it, like this grey-ish blue because it reminded me of walls in a clinic and the old chairs you sit in when you wait. But I ended up leaving that out. I thought it was really strong to be just three colors.
Yes! It was really cool and I bet having Mila there helped pull the black-white-red aesthetic together. I don’t know if you read her exit interview on the blog, but she brought up your friendship and how we didn't really get to see that on camera.
I didn’t read the exit interviews because I didn’t want to hear who the other designers wanted to win! [Laughs] Mila and I had a great friendship. I think they wanted to keep Mila as this cold, distant person and she’s actually not that person at all, she’s really fun! She’s very calm, and she’s very professional and she doesn’t have to put on a showcase to impress people because it’s not about her, it’s about her work.
I went to the finale runway and I knew who the top three were at the time and I knew your collection immediately when I saw it come out. I think anyone in the audience who saw knew it was you. Did you kind of see this as a continuation of your Season 8 Fashion Week collection?
The Rorschach dress was kind of a tribute to the original bubble dress I created for my Fashion Week collection in Season 8 — which I got a lot of sh*t for from the judges but the audience loved it.
But Heidi and Jessica Simpson both wore it.
Right, so it’s like whatever. You know who gave me the courage to go there? It was Georgina. She said, "You know, it’s okay to revisit places that you’ve been before." So there are definitely some things that can be recognized from past work.
Are we going to see a lot of your finale collection in the collection you're now working on for Neiman Marcus? Are we going to see your purses or other accessories?
Yeah, I think we’re definitely going to revisit some of the looks that we saw, at least similar silhouettes. The price points are a little bit more boutique-based but we are definitely putting in some items — I talked to Ken about how there should be some pieces in the collection that are a little more accessible, one size fits all. So bags, special-edition t-shirt because not all the fans and the lovers of fashion can afford a $150 skirt so we wanted to make something really accessible to that customer who wants something and takes part of that experience but can’t necessarily afford to pay the amount that it's marked at. So you’ll see some pieces like that. I mean, yes, the other pieces will definitely be "Mondo" — you’ll see a lot of print, there are going to be polka-dots again, as well as houndstooth and stripes. People have been asking for certain things and they like what they saw on the show so I’m kind of playing off of what I’ve already heard. As much as I’m doing it for myself, I’m doing it for the fans of "Project Runway" and the fans of my work.
Don't miss Mondo's video exit interview and view his portfolio of work from this season and past collections here! PLUS, stay tuned to the blog for exit interviews with Austin and Michael later this week!
Maybe Austin, Michael and Mondo aren’t your top three designers from the first eight seasons of auf, but last night’s finale was, at the very least, a captivating view of the show’s history. Even if your favorite didn’t make it to the final fashion show in the sky, there is probably a little of them represented in each of these guys. Personality wise, we have the true star and seasoned vet, the underdog with a heart of gold and the tortured artist and recluse. When it comes to the creations themselves, there’s Austin’s curated collection of whimsical, romantic glamour that even if you don’t like you “have to give credit” to and fantasize about where to wear. Michael’s collection is full of sexy, draped resort or red carpet-ready designs that you could see waging war in the "Who Wore it Better" section of any women's magazine. Mondo is the fun designer. He's the easy fan favorite who makes modern, young, hip clothing that is at once wearable and incredibly daring. May the best man win!
As the episode begins, it is time for the designers to say goodbye to the comforts of their home-away-from home; goodbye, Flatotel! Goodbye, free hairspray! Goodbye, seclusion and forced friendships! Hello, umbrella-holder! On a side note: Michael is wearing Mondo’s shirt from the “All Stars” key art, no?
If any of us have doubted Mondo’s intentions, passion or desire to win, he calls us back over to his corner with his earnest admission of well, wanting to win. Fine, Mondo! We want you to win too! We hated Gretchen’s stupid crocheted underwear outfits and thought you were robbed! (I actually really loved Gretchen and her designs. Shh, don't tell another of my non-existent fashion credentials down the drain.)
The highlight of this episode, maybe the season, is Austin's description of his collection. I've transcribed it here: "It's called: 'Austin Scarlett' and it's a story of a vampire from the 18th century who has lived many hundreds of years and now resides in Williamsburg and occasionally borrows clothes from her Hassidic dandy friend." And then, his work is somehow truly that. Like I said last week, I remember going into that fashion show, knowing who the final three were and being shocked when I realized that that was Austin's work. In person it was the most interesting runway show.
Mondo's collection, I knew was Mondo's collection. It was almost an extension of his final runway show from his Season 8 Fashion Week collection and most definitely showcased his signatures: wearable separates, unique, custom patterns. They were clothing that would fly off the rack if (and: spoiler alert, when!) they were ever put on a rack.
Did anyone else want to stop Michael's show and ask the models to give us a look at the vests they peeled out of the second they got on the runway? When it all comes down to it, Michael's clothing are more my "personal style." They are the pieces that I would be most drawn to purchase in a store or pin to my "My Style" board on Pinterest. But I know that the real competition is between Austin and Mondo; the winner of the first "Project Runway" challenge ever and the loser of one of the most heated competitions and biggest "Runway" upsets ever.
My favorite pieces from each collection are below, what were yours?!
Although my weekly recapping duties here are on pause, this blog will remain host to all of the news and updates on all things “All Star”-related foreverrrr/until the Internet is gone. Don’t forget to check back in the coming days for exit interviews with all three designers. Thank you all SO much for reading the weekly recaps here on the “Project Runway All Stars” Blog! Goodbye (for now) and see you soon enough for weekly Season 10 recapping on the “Project Runway” Blog!
And read Laura Bennett's blog post here on LifetimeMoms.com!
On the "Project Runway All Stars" Finale next Thursday, March 22, at 9 pm/8c, the top three All Stars will present their signature collections to a VIP Runway show crowd! But we wanted to give you, our biggest fans, a sneak peek from each designer to see what you can expect from their collection.
Peruse one piece from each designer below, and let us know from these sneak peeks who you think is going to take home the big prize!