Turning dark times into lighter hopes
by Brian James and Leigh Maynard
Legendary Irish-American designer Paul Costelloe chose to show his Spring Summer 2022 collection in a dual format which respected the caution that still pervades society while also acknowledging the freedoms that are slowly re-emerging.
Primarily showing digitally, Paul also invited a number of guests to his Marylebone atelier where a number of models walked displaying a selection of those digital runway looks while also allowing us the privilege of seeing him and his team at work first hand. 5ELEVEN were delighted to be welcomed behind the scenes to see the Spring Summer 2022 pieces up close and to gain a fascinating insight into the master designer's creative process.
We were shown a series of the most stunning dresses in a colour palette of beige, citrus, vibrant light green and translucent baby blue. There were short and long hemlines, pieces that had a by-the- pool resort feel to them and pieces which were confections of ruffles, exaggerated puff sleeves and floor length glamour. For those mulling over what to wear back to the office we also saw the most gorgeous baby blue twin sets pared with ankle socks and white shoes, clothing to glam up the dullest of commutes. These in-salon looks were just a segment of the garments featured on the digital showcase which also featured longline tailored jackets with low cut lapels, Macs in sensual patent leather and pieces in lycra which screamed active wear luxe. The designers' bags were presented in large print linen weekend style with soft-leather belted accessories bringing an everyday functionality to this gorgeous collection.
It was a collection to take the Paul Costelloe aficionado from morning gym to daytime office, to evening party. And while it bore all the signature hallmarks that we have come to love from him, it was also a collection which fully demonstrated the ongoing evolution of a designer who fully embraces the present while being influenced by the past.
We had the pleasure to sit with Paul during our visit and asked him what had inspired this latest body of work. Paul told us that the “The specific print of the collection is from the Book of Kells which was written on the Isle of Iona in Scotland”. Always attuned to his own Celtic heritage the Book of Kells was written by Irish monks in 800 AD and is an illuminated Latin manuscript depicting the four gospels. Paul went onto explain that he and his son had visited Trinity College, Dublin, where it is held, and both were inspired by it. With the seed sown, he and his son who is a printer and artist had the genesis for a concept that would evoke the traditions of a long-lost culture that echoes the turbulence of today. Those influences manifested themselves through Paul re-interpreting the scrollwork designs and microscopic detailing of the Book of Kells in his own painterly hand to adorn his creations.
The designer explained that the Celtic connection was further solidified through the natural fabrics such as linen being partly sourced in County Wexford and printed in Northern Ireland. Paul said that “It’s quite a nice story as Northern Ireland is often only bad news... so we are covering both sides of the Border and being apolitical”.
Asking him how he felt about showing his latest collection as a digital / salon hybrid and whether he had missed the physical interaction with people Paul told 5ELEVEN “I've been commuting the whole time on my bike coming into here to work, windows open, myself and my son, working throughout, feeling comparatively healthy”. He added that he is planning a physical catwalk show for next February back at the Waldorf Hotel, the quite stunning location which has served for many years as the eponymous labels fashion week home.
Musing on that return to physical shows and the pandemics impact on the fashion industry, Paul felt that it has affected retail and consequently the industry very badly. He has at the same time seen much creative positivity arising during these troubled times. “It has given people the opportunity to create from their own local environment and people have had to look in rather than look out to develop projects so that develops creativity in itself.”
This positive attitude is one that imbues all that Paul Costelloe does and one of the things which so drew him to the Book of Kells was that it offered society a beacon of hope, turning dark times into lighter hopes for the future. As we move towards the end of 2021 with a still uncertain future ahead of us that mantra is one that could be equally applicable for 21st century society. And Paul Costelloe is definitely one designer who makes all our lives that much lighter.
5ELEVEN would like to thank Paul for taking the time to speak to us at his atelier and Rob and the team at Trace Publicity for making us so welcome. All images courtesy of Paul Costelloe.