Friday 24 November 2017

On the ball with designer Paul Costello

Top designer Paul Costelloe tells Sam Griffin about his rugby career as a try- scoring second row and gives fans the inside track of what to do in London

Paul photographed with his artist son William who, like his five brothers, played rugby at Ampleforth College
Paul photographed with his artist son William who, like his five brothers, played rugby at Ampleforth College

PAUL Costelloe is widely regarded as one of the country's best-known menswear and ladies fashion designers. Less is known of his long rugby career, and although mostly social in nature, it has been just as colourful as some of the designs that sit on shelves and hang in wardrobes in homes here and abroad.

He happilly recalls his early days on the field, first with Willow Park, and then onto the junior sides when attending Blackrock College. It all could have come to a crushing halt after his failure to make the Junior Cup squad there, but he dusted himself off from that and his passion for the game, you could say, has never been stronger.

"I don't think I was ever really noticed on the field, despite the fact I was six-foot-three," he laughs. "I was a reluctant second row but I preferred to play with the ball in my hands, but I wasn't prepared to work hard for it," he jokes.

"Sometimes when I was lock, I would end up playing scrum-half and the scrum-half would be giving out to me. 'Let me get the ball,' he'd say, so I think you could call me a ghastly gloryer."

The Dublin-born designer is now based in Putney, London, and he travels to Italy a lot. His six sons all played rugby at school at Ampleforth College, which has produced some great rugby talent including Laurence Dallaglio and Simon Easterby, forwards coach for the Irish team. The Costelloe boys still don the jersey for the Ampleforth past pupil sides and Paul is a regular at their matches, vocal with his support, and advice, from the sidelines.

Paul embraced the role of a 'social rugby player' and enjoyed stints with Blackrock club, UCD Hogs and Lansdowne where, in one season, between September and January, he managed to score a try in every single game.

"I was always reasonably quick and I was able to break through the lineouts. Having said that, I think my fame for playing in Blackrock remains the fact that I nearly drowned on one occasion playing on the pitch in Williamstown," he says.

"They found me right at the bottom of a scrum on a very wet day. I think I would have been the first person to drown on a rugby pitch."

When he was living in New York, Paul played for the Old Blues on the Upper East Side and the picture (below right) shows him in the back row, posing with the team after a game in Manhattan.

However, as his design career flourished, Paul returned to Dublin and then London, where he remains an avid follower of Irish rugby.

"I watch the Irish team somewhat reluctantly from a pub in London, which can be very frustrating at times, especially when they're not playing well, like in some of the World Cup warm-up games," he adds, decrying the team's inability, at least so far, to unlock opposition defences with dazzling back-play and incisive, creative moves.

"Perhaps they're still missing Brian O'Driscoll's presence," he offers, before adding he thinks Ireland are contenders if there is belief in the backs.

Paul will be in prime position to take it all in as the Rugby World Cup unfolds, having been based in London for the last 15 years now. Ireland play Romania in Wembley on September 27 and then Italy on October 4 in the Olympic Stadium.

"Irish fans are going to love it in London. It's not a rugby city; it's a football city; but there is so much to do with theatres, restaurants, and I would also recommend hiring bikes. It's a great city to get around on a bike now," he says.

Paul cycles everywhere around London and he recommends getting yourself a Boris Bike to explore the city. His top suggestions for Irish rugby fans travelling to the RWC this month include a visit to The Stockpot restaurant, great for a morning fry as well as the Mona Lisa, for simple, inexpensive food. Both are on the King's Road in Chelsea and he also likes the Como Lario Italian eatery in Pimlico.

Two decades after moving to live in London with his wife Anne and their children, Paul has lots of recommendations for Lineout, including a visit to Regent's Park and to the Serpentine cafe in Hyde Park. And while you're in the area, he suggests a trip down Oxford Street for a walk through the shoe department in Selfridges.

"It's just amazing. It's worth going into like you would go into any museum for a look. It's just unbelievable."

For the more active, he recommends taking a rugby ball into Hyde Park. "You wouldn't know who you would meet in there," he says, "especially when there is a World Cup on."

Paul Costelloe's Living Men range is available at Dunnes Stores,

Irish Independent

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