Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Furry Fashionistos: Costello Tagliapietra

Check out my latest interview with the boys of Costello Tagliapietra. Let it be said that my original title for this piece was "Ready-to-Bear," but the editor made a final switch...C'est la vie!

Jeffrey Costello & Robert Tagliapietra: The Furry Fashionistos

By Sean Yashar

Gays in the fashion industry is anything but new, but when burly, bearded and flannelly-clad design duo, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra, came on the scene in 2005 with their first runway collection, their own bearish appearances became as much a cause for intrigue and admiration as their signature vision for modern femininity. With their namesake line, Costello Tagliapietra, now coveted by celebrities from Madonna to Angelina Jolie, fashion spreads gracing the pages of Vogue and ELLE, and a sold-out collaboration line with international retailer UNIQLO, Jeffrey and Robert have found themselves in the limelight with a significant opportunity to bring awareness for bear culture and the many faces of gay to a mainstream audience.

Let’s face it, even as we see more gay characters infiltrate shows on major networks in recent years, we’re also seeing the prevalence of those characters typecast as hyper-effeminate nymphos, perpetuating misconceptions of homosexuality to a predominately straight viewership. As is the case in high-fashion, gays are expected to be more Goldilocks than the three bears. Jeffrey and Robert have experienced that first hand:

"There were people earlier on in our career who thought we would be more successful […] if we were thinner and ‘looked the part,’ but that wasn’t an option and we felt the work would speak for itself,” says Robert. “It was also important to us from day one to be open about the fact that we were a long-term monogamous couple. In terms of role models, this was something that we saw so little of, and after 16 years together it makes a lot of people happy to know that this can be found in the LGBT community."

Even in the gay community itself, the boys of Costello Tagliapietra have found great fulfillment in taking an honest approach to their identity in the public eye. Unexpectedly becoming bear ambassadors, Jeffrey and Robert have been able to connect to a generation of gay youth who feel alienated by images of homosexuality in the mass media. As Robert puts it: “Growing up as a fat kid, I was out when it was hard to envision myself belonging to the gay community. I felt like an outsider. Now, we get letters from kids all the time and that feels really rewarding.”

As if breaking stereotypes for the gay community wasn’t enough, Jeffrey and Robert are currently pursuing another critical challenge to the system. Costello Tagliapietra’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection is in many ways a call for action against the way women are dressing today. Though their own aesthetic may be more John Goodman than Elton John, Jeffrey and Robert’s chic and undeniably feminine sensibility has ushered in a return to stylish sophistication - a campaign challenging the chronically casual dressing habits of today. As the duo explained, their goal with the latest line was to bring “elegance back into daytime dressing, […] a return to a time when people took pride in what they wore to work.” Already lauded by the industry’s elite as a standout of the Spring/Summer collections, it seems that these fashion bears have the Midas touch in everything that they set their sights to accomplish.

Call it a response to the hairless metrosexual era of the 90’s, or a new appreciation for the masculine archetype, but whatever the case may be, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra are two lumberjack, teddy bear designers on a significant journey. People may think it’s ironic that two burly men could succeed in the ways that Jeffrey and Robert have, but with sheer talent, clear vision and a little fur, Costello Tagliapietra are the unlikely heroes for our community at large.

About Costello Tagliapietra:
Spring 2005 fashion week marked the Costello Tagliapietra premier on the New York runways. Growing up, Robert in Westchester, New York and Jeffrey in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, both had grandmothers who worked as seamstresses for iconic, American designer Norman Norell, yet they had never met. Initially meeting through a friend at New York’s Sound Factory in 1994, the duo’s first project was working on the set of Madonna’s Bedtime Stories music video. Costello Tagliapietra went on to win the 2005 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award and presented their second well-received collection, of twenty-four looks, in which called “expertly executed”. Finalists of the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2005 and now in 2006, both designers were elected to the CFDA in 2006. The Costello Tagliapietra collection is sold at Barneys New York and select specialty boutiques worldwide. Their recent collaboration with UNIQLO is also currently available around the world.

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