michael costello

Seeing Stars

Fellow Project Runway stars join Michael Costello to show a heavenly array of evening wear and not-sure-where-to-wear.

Lisa Marie Hart Fashion Week El Paseo

michael costello
Unlined dresses, sheer tops, a lace bellbottom jumpsuit, and draping beaded gowns highlighted Michael Costello's collection at Fashion Week El Paseo March 21.

If you’re reading this, you’re more than familiar with the name Michael Costello. No need to remind you of all the A-listers this onetime Palm Springs resident has dressed.
Maybe you saw his Grammy awards post on Facebook last month: “Maren Morris and Alicia Keys both performing in my looks.”

M-Coz gets around.

The man who knows how to bare where it counts (and cover at least a little something, something) has quickly won the trust of fickle, red carpet fashion personalities since appearing on Project Runway in 2010 and Project Runway: All Stars in 2012. He has sent his trendy, sex kitten looks down the Fashion Week El Paseo catwalk more years than not.

A pair of looks from former Project Runway star Chris March.

Last night at “Michael Costello and The Stars of Project Runway,” this irrepressible 34-year-old proved once again that he has earned every inch of that shiny red star unveiled on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars just a day prior.

The crowd came hungry for the Tuesday night show, all nervous energy, fast chatter, and creative interpretations of desert cocktail party attire. Cambria presented the event that united Costello with fellow stars from the reality television series. Together this small but mighty constellation presented a show worth discussing.

Hello slits! Who knew you could ride so high? Heavy beading glinted under the lights. Lace showed its many alluring faces, from happy hour scalloped hems on miniskirts to temptress body stockings that may or may not have an appropriate occasion. Black and white ruled the night, punctuated by glimpses of red, deep blue, and blush. Oversized was the only size on church-bell sleeves, double balloon sleeves, and ruffles that stood up like fins on giant fish. Trailing capes and capelets caught a breeze as did soft, ostrich feather trim. Hard-edge looks veered unabashedly bondage with straps and more straps. Across designers, the many lingerie-inspired looks paired with hats resonated with a demographic that shows some skin year round.

Christopher Palu’s designs drew bursts of applause and a standing ovation when he was done.

Speaking of which… attendees surely noted a forgivable miscalculation. A number of pieces in these Spring/Summer 2017 collections (created specifically for the show) were much too much for the climate. Fur, leather, heavy coats, and chunky sweaters wrapped models in a cozy winter aesthetic that we dream of extracting from the deep recesses of our closets but rarely get the chance to.

The show unfolded in distinct, personality-driven segments, kicking off with a collection by the only designer mysteriously not in attendance. To compensate, Chris March sent a music video component that gave his collection a poppy, colorful backdrop to the tune of Swing Out Sister’s “Am I the Same Girl? from 1992. The unpredictable costume designer who collaborated with Target on a comical series of foam wigs showed incredible sophistication through elaborate beading, tulle, texture, and asymmetry.

Char Glover’s collection incorporated stretch knit fabrics and bold graphic prints.

Lest we turn Fashion Week into a popularity contest, Christopher Palu might wear the Homecoming King crown. Despite his show’s somber soundtrack and stern models dressed in black with harsh middle parts and inky plum lipstick, the audience burst twice with applause, even before his standing ovation. First, a belt the width of a tire cinched a V-back top that dripped in beaded fringe. Each strand sparkled as if powered by electricity. For the final ensemble, a floor-dusting red fur coat hung over a model’s shoulders. At runway’s end, she threw it behind her to reveal a sheer black dress of beaded lace, then dragged the coat behind her like trophy prey.

On a more wearable note, Char Glover is known for her rebellious attitude toward fashion that manifests in custom, no-fuss pieces. Street style leans upscale at her L.A. design studio. Her collection incorporated stretch knit fabrics and bold graphic prints. Pieces ranged from a cut-out jumpsuit and flowing gaucho pants to ruffled, form-fitting sheath dresses.

Ball gowns with feather trim, tiered skirts, and mermaid hems reminded onlookers of Antonio and Jesus Estrada’s bread-and-butter work in New York City.

Formal coordinates in prints on black were stand-outs from Jesus and Antonio Estrada. A duster and cigarette pants, a bandeau top and high-waist slitted skirt, and a peplum bustier with cropped pants received nods for both beauty and practicality. Ball gowns with feather trim, tiered skirts, and mermaid hems reminded onlookers of their bread-and-butter work in New York City: custom special occasion dresses for teens and tweens. To showcase fully styled looks, they paired Swarovski jewelry from the Spring/Summer 2017 collection with their couture formal wear, including on-trend chokers, mixed-metal cuffs, and statement earrings. The identical twins have an eye for the exquisite, a taste for the appropriate, and a flair for letting the woman move the gown, not the other way around.

When the screen read “Stello,” a satin jacket worn as a dress made its way down the runway. A men’s collection followed that dress, which seemed to confuse the audience who was anxious to see Costello’s trademark work. Little did they know there were dual parts to his show. The dozen men in leather motorcycle jackets, trench coats with red lining, military-style coats, metallic suits, a puffer vest with fur-trimmed hood, and a prep school blazer with quilted leather sleeves were only the appetizer. Or was that the final model who shed his quilted robe, leaving the crowd to whoop and cheer? Costello came out to wave and toss t-shirts into the crowd before disappearing for part 2.

Stello is Michael Costello’s latest brand featuring menswear.

Much of his revealing women’s designs defied simple explanation. “I couldn’t wear it out and I wouldn’t wear it to bed, but it’s beautiful. It’s art,” said one fan after the show. Gold-belted bodysuits with puff sleeves and shoulder-to-knee fringe? It’s a real thing. Unlined dresses, sheer tops, a lace bellbottom jumpsuit, and draping beaded gowns blended together in a cohesive collection just for the show of it. Body-conscious in black and white, his sensual, over-the-top collection had Afro wigs to match.

It’s been quite the week for Costello. Monday was his Walk of Stars dedication ceremony. A morning meet and greet preceded Tuesday evening’s fashion show. A “Project Runway” trunk show lets you shop the runway on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Costello’s name is now carved on a Palm Springs sidewalk among U.S. presidents, midcentury architects, civic leaders, and entertainers. Twenty-two years ago, Marilyn Monroe earned her own star. Bet she would have loved to slip into a Costello. If that leggy statue ever comes back, let’s put her in one of his gowns.

A draping beaded gown added to Michael Costello’s collection.

(From left) Christopher Palu, Char Glover, Antonio Estrada, Michael Costello, and Jesus Estrada.

VIDEO: Watch the entire Fashion Week El Paseo show featuring “Michael Costello and the Stars of Project Runway.”