Friday 14 December 2018

'I’m the youngest of seven practically hidden under a table growing up, mine is a survival story' - Paul Costelloe

Paul Costelloe at his Marylebone, London studio. Picture: Caitlin McBride
Paul Costelloe at his Marylebone, London studio. Picture: Caitlin McBride
Striding out: Models show off Paul Costelloe’s collection in London. Photo: Debbie Bragg
Paul Costelloe and Vogue Williams during a dress fitting | Photo via Instagram.com / PaulCostelloeOfficial
Vogue Williams attends the Paul Costelloe catwalk show during London Fashion Week at The Waldorf London on September 18, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Former Saturdays singer Una Healy with Irish designer Paul Costelloe at London Fashion Week.
Vogue and Storm support Paul Costelloe. PIC: Vogue Williams Instagram.
Frock and awe: Designer Paul Costelloe pictured with a model wearing an outfit from his upcoming collection
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

"Honestly for somebody who’s come from the youngest of seven in a large family, being hidden under the table practically when I was growing up, that you know it’s been a survival story of keeping moving ahead and not looking behind," Paul Costelloe tells me during a recent trip to Dublin.

The Irish designer, whose career has spanned decades, is as influential now as he was in the early '90s, when he was regularly a guest at Kensington Palace to dress Princess Diana. These days, it's all about diversification: adopting an approach to attract new generation customers, while keeping Costelloe-loyalists happy to return every time.

In addition to his ready-to-wear line, his capsule collection with Dunnes Stores, his upcoming evening wear line and a range of handbags to be launched next year, his focus - at least when we speak - is his eponymous jewellery collection, an affordable jewellery range (named Eden) made of sterling silver.

"It's based around Christmas and the price structure is really exciting because you can cover all your guilts between €85 to €150, which I think is somewhat affordable for people feeling guilt about spending - which is most of the population of Ireland," he explains.

Striding out: Models show off Paul Costelloe’s collection in London. Photo: Debbie Bragg
Striding out: Models show off Paul Costelloe’s collection in London. Photo: Debbie Bragg

"It’s sterling silver and freshwater pearl - it's quite understated, which is what the Costelloe brand has always been. Sometimes I get in trouble for being so understated! I'm not being too committed from the point of view of being very lavish because the brand is moving and it’s moving quite rapidly.

"It’s been attracting a lot of new people and new celebrities. It's all part of the Costelloe roundabout - the Costelloe circus is in town and it seems to be still effective after so many years which is kind of horrific!"

Diversity is the key to longevity, especially in an ever-changing fashion retail industry, one which is struggling to have the same in-store impact in a changing digital economy. So, what's the key to his enduring success?

"I think it’s thanks to this jewellery collection and of course Dunnes Stores and some other things in the New Year, it’s just keeping the brand visible, which involves showing at London Fashion Week, which is a great expense, but it means that it’s still a designer collection because it shows during London Fashion Week at the peak of each season," he says.

"It has merit behind the designer factor and I think I'm still own of the only few Irish designers showing there.  I’m fortunate when one or two people have retired, I'm still digging my own grave!

"Diversity is very relevant in the market at the moment, there so many concerns about retailing going totally online and shops are closing down everywhere.  You walk down South Morton street in London, like a graveyard and it was once the mecca for high fashion and trends. You need to have a presence in stores and online."

Vogue and Storm support Paul Costelloe. PIC: Vogue Williams Instagram.
Vogue and Storm support Paul Costelloe. PIC: Vogue Williams Instagram.

Whatever he's doing, it's certainly working - profits at his firm, of which he and wife Anne are directors, have grown exponentially, passing the €1m mark last year. The cash pile at the company last year increased by €514,817, going from €833,394 to €1.34m.

Last time I spoke with Paul was from his London studio in Kensington, ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in May and while Markle remains his dream to dress, he has developed an unbreakable relationship with Irish tv presenter Vogue Williams, creating a custom gown for her low-key wedding to Spencer Matthews back in July, where sister-in-law Pippa Middleton was on the guestlist and her brother James gave a reading.

"It was done in seven days," he gushes over the gown, which required last minute alterations due to the fact that Vogue was eight months pregnant at the time.

"That was a challenge because I was dealing with maternity, but having seven of my own children, I was very sympathetic. It was a great privilege.  The Irish girls in London are making an impact and the fact that they can smile is a great quality."

After 40 years, he retains the same passion of his craft and has no intention of giving anytime soon - not when there is still so much to learn and more people to meet.

"When it comes to coats and jackets and things, eveningwear is quite new for me, it really only stepped into the last seasons, which I’ve enjoyed because it’s a whole different technique and mindset, that’s been good for the brand because of all the red carpets," he explains

"Sometimes you lose track living in London, you realise how small and insignificant you are. I just cycled into work at 8am to dress Kate Silverton, who is on Strictly, and with things like that...it’s unbelievable.

"We’re also launching a small coutrue handbag collection in the New Year, these small projects are important to keep the name alive so when they go into Weirs or Fallons, look at Costelloe jewellery, they think, 'I know that brand, he's Irish'.

What is the key to this abiding joie de vivre? "Not being over arrogant and enjoying the humour of life has held me together."

Online Editors

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