Beyonce's Grammys Dress Designer: 'I Love Nakedness'
Michael Costello tells Pret-a-Reporter how he happened to dress the singer in "magical fairies" after her "Drunk in Love" awards show kickoff, and when he first began perfecting his nude-illusion aesthetic.
Surprisingly, the most talked-about Grammy look never even hit the red carpet or the stage.
After kicking off the awards show on Sunday with a sultry performance of "Drunk in Love" with Jay Z, Beyonce shed her La Perla collar, Nichole de Carle bodysuit and Saint Laurent tights to don a barely-there, body-hugging Michael Costello Couture gown. She debuted the glittering nude-and-lace look from her front-row seat nearly an hour and a half into the broadcast -- a moment that left even Jamie Foxx talking in circles when presenting the Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration to Jay Z for "Holy Grail" with Justin Timberlake.
The next morning, designer Michael Costello woke up to more than 400 text messages from friends and family, all sending their praises of the handmade look. "There are three layers to the dress -- a white lace, a nude illusion mesh, and another layer underneath it with magical fairies, holding up all the flowers -- I'm sorry, I'm bad at dress descriptions!" Costello tells Pret-a-Reporter, still in disbelief. "I love to design things that have that element of whimsical, and that element of almost nakedness. I love nakedness."
Though the singer's stylist, Ty Hunter, had come in to his Los Angeles studio just a week ago, after meeting the designer at a Golden Globes afterparty, Costello didn't believe Hunter was serious about pulling looks.
"I was in a mini-shock -- I'm so used seeing her in Valentino, Versace, Gucci or maybe even her own brand," he says of hearing from Hunter. "Let me tell you, when he was set to come in, we mopped that floor, bought new mannequins, got a chandelier!"
Hunter was drawn to the nude-illusion look that Costello had set to debut in his upcoming New York Fashion Week showing at the Helen Mills Event Space on Feb. 8, with New York Fashion Week expert Barbara Berman on board. "It's such a huge A-lister, you always wonder, what are your chances of dressing this person? It's so slim to none. But when Hunter came into the showroom and saw the dress, he said, 'Yes, this is the moment.'"
Since interning with Bob Mackie at a young age and competing on season 8 of Project Runway, the self-taught Costello has dressed Colbie Caillat, Jessie J, Vampire Diaries' Kat Graham and Shahs of Sunset's Lilly Ghalichi in his signature "nakedness" aesthetic, while also outfitting Ke$ha, LeAnn Rimes, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and others in more covered red-carpet looks.
At Sunday's Grammys, Costello also dressed Skylar Grey in a nude leather MT Costello gown, as well as nominee Tamar Braxton in a red mermaid Michael Costello Couture dress, complete with a new shoulder-length hairdo and a built-in microphone for the singer to continue taping her WE tv reality shows while at the awards ceremony.
"I've been designing dresses with nude illusions, in all honesty, since I was a kid," he explains. "I think it's all part of that fantasy and fairy tale. When I design, I think of things floating all the time, looking like it's been made of air. When I created that dress Beyonce wore, I wanted to create something that looked like the flowers were just falling, magically placed there in those spots. When you wear these, you have to be somewhat of a risk-taker -- they're not for everyone."
He hasn't heard back from the singer directly, but Costello appreciates the shout-out she gave on her Facebook page, and still isn't sure if he's going to offer the dress for sale, let alone include it in his runway show next week.
"It's so special to me now -- not only because Beyonce wore it but also because I'm such a die-hard fan, like, I know every lyric -- I would maybe love to just have it displayed in the showroom as a magic moment, or maybe even somewhere where the world can see it," he says. "But maybe I'll throw it on the runway too; it's still up in the air. We've gotten so many emails about [purchases], but there's so much work that goes into that dress, it's almost hard to replicate that one. But I'd like to maybe offer a variation of it. A user-friendly version under $1,500 for people who want to get the dress."
Still, he notes the inevitable dilemma of having a buzzworthy red-carpet look. "But I know by tomorrow, there's going to be a million knockoffs. It's gonna happen."
With the Grammys madness behind him (plans to dress Lorde as well had fallen through), how does Costello stay sane in preparation for his eighth NYFW showing?
"Now, it's all about trust," he says without hesitation. "I've never been able to trust myself, because I want to do everything -- I want to be involved in the pinning, stitching, ironing, last-minute details, planning, fits -- but the most important thing is to trust your crew and let them do what they do. But, have a huge crew, because there's always one last-minute thing that's gonna happen. You have to be prepared."