Designer Michael Costello poses backstage with his models.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NICOLE JARAMILLO
It was a starry, starry night when the fanciful creations of celebrity designer Michael Costello commanded the stage Sunday evening. A regular at Fashion Week El Paseo since 2011, the Emmy Award winner and Project Runway alum knows how to put on a show and has garnered a loyal fanbase — especially here in the desert, where Costello was raised. The tent was packed, excitement ran high, and even before the event began, a glittery celestial backdrop hinted at wondrous things to come.
A series of shimmery gold dresses captivated the crowd immediately. Ruched and gathered to accent the female frame Costello so admires, two floor-length gowns — one single-shouldered and another accented by a flowing cape — culminated in fluid and generous fishtail hemlines, while a mini dress appeared positively futuristic.
Soon a seamless segue to black-hued designs joined the parade, because how could such a celestial group of “forever pieces” fail to plumb the mysterious depths of the night sky? And what a sparkling sky Costello imagines it to be! A floor-length, slit-leg skirt glinted with a hundred points of light, while voluminous pant legs cascaded from a sleek-fitting bodice that glimmered at every turn.
To accompany the 40-plus designs featured, models often wore intriguing and intricate crowns — or, at the very least, a draped hood. At one point, a rakishly angled silver disk accented a black-sashed, silver-printed gown, calling to mind a British fascinator. At another, the model’s face was completely meshed with skin-tight fabric, as if painted with the crystal-covered blue of her ensemble. Some looks made the models appear statuesque, while others imbued proceedings with an almost fairy-tale sensibility. Since Costello is appreciative of every female form, full-figure styles were represented.
Elbow-length gloves also had their moment in the spotlight. While some pairs stretched over arms smoothly, more were inclined to gather in softly rippling folds, adding texture and shape. Visually, sewn-in capes handsomely lengthened the lines of several ankle-grazing dress designs; deeply ruched wraps were the pièce de résistance on two minis.
However, for pure dramatic effect, Costello outdid himself when it came to bodices. In one long-sleeve, high-neck gown crafted in black velvet, the décolletage was cut away with a large circle, revealing a shimmering bra top seemingly made of diamonds. A couple of dress designs featured necklines that plunged to the waist with strategically placed strips of material to cover the right places. Still other bodices had fabric that crossed near the neckline in tight swaths to reveal interesting cutouts.
Plenty of lighter-than-air and generously proportioned skirts flowed freely down the runway as well, fine as gossamer. Then, a form-fitting gown with a swirling hemline would appear, or a mini dress with a highly structured bodice and skirt. The differences yet commonality on display in this celestially inspired show highlighted the genius and playfulness of Costello and was nothing short of heaven-sent.
While gold and silver and black color schemes dominated, along with many a beguiling blending of one or the other, Costello saved a vivid surprise for last. Attendees gasped audibly when styles showcasing deep, rich blue hues burst onto the runway. Glossy fabrics and sparkly sequins brought the midnight sky to life in a way no other color can. It was a fitting conclusion to a luminous show that channeled the moon goddess or princess in all of us.
To close, Costello walked the entire length of the runway to thunderous applause toting his toddler grandson. A pop-up store followed the show, during which the audience could peruse and purchase ensembles that had just stepped off the runway.
Fashion Week El Paseo continues through March 23 at The Gardens on El Paseo in Palm Desert. A selection of El Paseo retailers will rock the runway tonight, Monday, March 20, with a cocktail reception beginning at 7 p.m. and the show at 8 p.m.
For tickets and the full schedule of runway shows, pop-up stores, and special events, visit fashionweekelpaseo.com.