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Costarella ends fashion empire

Aurelio Costarella, WA’s most glittering frock star, is shutting up shop — for good.

Precarious mental health, a “diabolical” retail economy and an increasingly brutal industry have forced Costarella, 52, to make the agonising decision to pull the pin on the beloved, internationally acclaimed label.

In a desperate effort to reclaim his life, his health and his identity, the designer said he needed to cut Aurelio Costarella the label free so that Aurelio Costarella the man could soar once again.

“The decision to leave behind a career that has been my entire life for almost 34 years has not been an easy one,” Costarella told The Weekend West. “But I realise now that I’ve been in survival mode for a few years now.”

The current collection — appropriately called Thirty Three — is in store and will be Costarella’s last. He has already broken the news to staff and stakeholders and this story is his way of telling customers and fans. The boutique in the State Buildings will cease trading later this year.

Costarella admitted that when he was designing this collection, he knew in his heart it would be his swansong. “I believe the grieving process began a while ago for me,” he said. “Having spent 20 weeks at the Perth Clinic last year and a further period of time at home, unable to work, I knew something had to give. I couldn’t imagine managing my mental health and maintaining a career in an industry as unforgiving as fashion.”

Fashionistas will be clutching their hearts and clinging to their Costarella pieces — ostrich-feather boleros, form-fitting velvet and sequin-spiked gowns, strappy, shoulder-baring cocktail dresses, slick, sexy leather and trademark cinch-waisted tailoring — as collectors’ items.

The imminent closure has Costarella feeling understandably sentimental, reflecting on “so many magical moments”.

“Showing in New York for four seasons … selling to some of the most prestigious stores in the world, Barneys, Harvey Nichols, Henri Bendel, Villa Moda and celebrating 30 Years of Aurelio Costarella with a Retrospective at the WA Museum.”

Then, along with the countless brides, debutantes, ball and racegoers who have rocked Costarella, there were the big-name fans.

“Having Cate Blanchett name my Australian Fashion Week show as the highlight of the week when I relaunched as Aurelio Costarella in 2000 and then having Marion Hume site my show as stand-out of the week in 2005 was amazing.

“And dressing the likes of Rihanna, Charlize Theron, Dita Von Teese and Princess Mary of Denmark (to name a few). The ultimate accolade for me was to be inducted into the Design Institute of Australia hall of Fame in 2016. This nod from the design fraternity almost made it OK for me to bow out.”

However, Costarella said his greatest achievement was sharing his personal experience with depression and anxiety in a West Weekend cover story in 2015.

“I know from the daily messages I still receive that by sharing my story I have touched the lives of thousands of people. People still stop me in the streets to thank me and comment on how the story resonated with them.”

That’s why, going forward, he wants to continue his mental healthy advocacy work.

“I plan to be very active in the mental health and wellness space,” he said. “Talking about my personal experience has demonstrated just how much work there is to do. I want to get out there and talk to people.”

While he is closing the label, Costarella still hopes to create the occasional piece. In the meantime, he is rightly proud of the contribution he has made the State’s cultural fabric. “I’d hope that in some way I have helped place WA on the fashion map.”

He thanked his team for their support.

“If it hadn’t been for my staff and their incredible support over the last two years, I wouldn’t have made it this far. “They took the reins when I was unable to function and allowed me the space and time to heal. I’m so grateful.”Read more at:formal dresses australia | evening dresses

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