Tuesday 20 March 2018

A day in the life of Paul Costelloe: 'They are not X-rated, but I have dreams about everything'

Designer Paul Costelloe splits his time between London and Dublin.
Designer Paul Costelloe splits his time between London and Dublin.

Ciara Dwyer

Paul Costelloe (70) is a leading fashion designer who also specialises in homeware and jewellery. Born in Dublin, for the last 15 years he and wife, Anne, have been dividing their time between Putney in London, and Monkstown. They have seven grown-up children.

I sleep with the radio on. I can't get RTE, so I listen to BBC Radio 4. So I'm up to date with all the news, whatever news is relevant, and then I forget it by the time I wake up. I get up between 7am and 8am. My wife, Anne, and I always have breakfast together - a Danish and coffee. Then I head off happily, smiling the whole way. I go on the bike, but if the weather is stinking, I'll go on the Tube.  I live in Putney, south-west London.

I work just off Baker Street. I'm not great in the morning, and, in particular, I find Mondays tough. When I come in, I like to go and have a cup of coffee with my design team. We discuss what we need to do that week. At the moment, we're very pressed, because we're working on the catwalk show. I don't know how long I've been doing London Fashion Week; it's something horrific like 20 years. I'm sure they are thinking, 'Why are you still here?' But anyway, I still am. I enjoy the challenge and I don't want to lose my slot. I have to personally work very hard, but it's a wonderful experience to change styles every season. It's very theatrical, like making a movie. Each one is different. It keeps the name visible. I've been in London for 15 years now. I can't believe it's that long. I'm back to Ireland often, and I'm very fortunate that I've got feet in both camps. London keeps you competitive.

During the day, I could be designing jewellery. I pull things out of magazines, and get ideas here and there and follow through on that. Being a fashion designer, particularly in the UK and Ireland, is very difficult, especially when you're small and vulnerable to any economic change. So it keeps you being creative. If, for example, the clothing is going through a difficult time, well, maybe the homeware at Dunnes can help. It's a creative field. I was born a painter. As long as you do your research beforehand, you can understand the diversification of a fashion designer's life. I'm very much into low-key jewellery, allowing the face or the hands and the neck of the person to be identified. It's the same with my clothes, and everything I do. It's all understated. This is probably because I lived in Italy, and Armani was the king of fashion. He was always very understated - lovely textures and a simple, cool image. I try to portray that through what I do.

I think my parents had an influence on me, too. My father was in the clothing industry, and he understood textiles and how the touch is relevant to how something will turn out. My mother had a certain style, no doubt about it. She was a typical New Yorker - very strong opinions and quite dominating within the home - but she wasn't a typical, all-committed mother. She read a lot, and was a very interesting person. She always put on too much lipstick because she would do it in the car. And she always wore her corset. Every morning there was this ritual of her putting it on. As a boy, you'd walk in, see her doing it, and then walk out. Nowadays, they wear those awful Spanx things, but I think corsets are much nicer, and if they make a woman feel better and she can wear her pencil skirt, then why not? Men quite like them, too. It always adds a little extra mystery.

Nobody has the perfect body. I don't believe you can hide anything - OK, you can wear a corset and stretch your body underneath - but it's to do with confidence. I think it's important to feel good about yourself, and to have a high self-esteem is very important. If you don't have a high self-esteem, you can spend all the money you like. It's about how you carry yourself and how you talk and how you walk. It's about how you look upon life, and I think that reflects in the clothes the person wears. If she is unhappy, no matter how much you spend, it's not going to solve that.

What keeps me going? My ego, my ego. I'm so competitive, it's terrible. I think this is because, being the youngest of seven, I was always the one with the filthy leftovers - second-hand clothes all the way down. Money isn't my driving force. It's about the business and being recognised. I want recognition. An unfulfilled warrior of the fashion industry, that's what I am.

If I'm in London, I'll have dinner with Anne. She always manages to make a great table. She's an amazing woman. She is a Northsider. Talk about bringing you down to earth. I was walking out today and she was saying, 'Why are you leaving the table like this?' I had been working the night before and left some spilt ink on the table. She said, 'Come on, tidy up before you go'. She keeps me humble. Weekends are very important to me. I played tennis twice this weekend. I catch up with my children at the weekends, too. We have seven - three painters, one lawyer, one broker, an opera singer, and one son who has come back after five years working in Beijing.

How did we stay sane with the kids? I think it was a different generation back then. We didn't expect too much. Fortunately, Anne was a full-time mother, and I think that makes a huge difference. I know it's difficult for a lot of people, and I can understand that. In those days, we lived in a little flat in Monkstown for a long time, paying rent every month. We were just hanging in for a long time, but we survived and had fun. We enjoyed our children, playing in the park. We were never very materialistic. We just enjoyed the sea, and what nature gave us. We kept it simple, and we still do.

We go to the movies at least once a week. Quite often, we're the only people on the street coming home. All the English are in bed by 9.30pm, and they are up early.

I go to bed at about 10.30pm. I dream a lot, but I wouldn't like to tell you. I just dream, OK? They are not X-rated, but I have dreams about everything.

Paul's jewellery collection, the Richmond Collection, is available from jewellers and stockists nationwide.

See paulcostelloejewellery.com

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