Francisco Costa on Minimalism, Modernism, and Jennifer Lawrence

Francisco Costa
Photo: Getty Images
Designer Francisco Costa

Last fall, fashion historian and former Costume Institute curator Elyssa Dimant released Minimalism in Fashion, a gorgeous coffee table book dedicated to the history of the minimalist movement in all its forms and the way it has influenced the fashion industry. Designs by the likes of André Courrèges, Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, and Helmut Lang are included. But when it came to the foreword, there was only one man for the job: Calvin Klein Collection’s Francisco Costa.

On Tuesday night, Dimant and Costa joined the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Valerie Steele to share their collective wisdom.

“For me, minimalism is an exercise in reduction,” said Costa. “It’s not so much an absence; it’s quite complex. Minimalism is spare but really rich. I find it quite exciting.”

And just how is it applied in Costa’s design house? “As you start developing a collection further and further, things start disappearing—and you get to the essence,” he said.

“It’s about reducing until you get to a primary form,” added Dimant. “Minimalism is celebrating that primary form.”

The conversation turned to Calvin Klein, the man (“He’s a genius,” Costa said. “He’s in a different place. I’m struggling to get there!”), to technology and textile development to functionality in fashion—a hot topic for high-fashion designers often criticized for collections that are deemed “unwearable.”

“I love aesthetics as much as I love functionality,” said Costa. “When you’re creating, you just have to create.”

Of course, even if Costa has erred on the side of the avant-garde in the past, he still has quite a business on his hands—helped, no doubt, by Calvin Klein Collection’s strong celebrity following.

Gwyneth Paltrow sported a sleek silver gown to the Oscars this year, but it was newbie actress Jennifer Lawrence who got pulses racing in a slinky red dress by the line.

“I thought she was super sexy. I wanted to touch her!” Costa laughed. “She has such a free spirit, and it was so her. It was her moment.”