Michael Costello came close to making the final three on season eight of "Project Runway," but in the end, Hawaii designer Andy South got the nod. Being "auffed" by host Heidi Klum sent Costello on a teary fit that NBC's Today.com ranked as one of the Top 10 reality TV meltdowns of 2010.
The designer can laugh about it now, saying, "I'm known for the biggest meltdown in 'Project Runway' history. It's my title, I own it. The episode didn't even show everything. I broke lamps. I broke tables. I punched walls. I may even have punched a producer, but it's tough to hear the words 'You're out.'"
He said he was suffering a personal crisis at the time and felt he was losing the support of his family. "I was devastated by the idea of going home and telling my son, 'Your dad didn't win.'"
The designer returned this season to Lifetime's "Project Runway All-Stars" in hope of redeeming himself. Last week he made it to the Top 3, and tonight TV viewers will find out whether he can beat season one's Austin Scarlett and his season eight compadre and fan favorite Mondo Guerra.
So, we may see a celebratory Costello when he hits the stage March 24 at Ala Moana Center, where he's a visiting guest for the center's Shop a Le'a festivities. The fifth annual event runs Monday through March 25, marking the start of the spring shopping season, with fashion shows, limited-edition gifts with purchase at various stores, an opportunity to win a girlfriends' getaway, and sales events.
At 7 p.m. March 25, Costello will be sharing spring trends, with his pick of garments straight off the racks of Ala Moana Center stores. He may also be bringing along a couple of his own creations to share.
In spite of his TV meltdown, Costello has recovered nicely.
"'Project Runway' gave me more of an understanding of how I should approach things, do things and grow my business," he said.
He closed his original Michael Costello Couture Palm Springs boutique after the show and moved his operations to a showroom in Los Angeles, though he still calls Palm Springs, Calif., home. He's planning to show at New York Fashion Week this fall.
"People don't understand I had an established business with a celebrity clientele before I was on 'Project Runway,'" he said. "Mariah Carey's been my client for six years; I've been close to Toni Braxton for 11 years. I designed for Elizabeth Taylor."
Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Salma Hayek have also worn his designs, which are characterized by an effortless glam and resort-style chic.
"After 'Project Runway' I started to get calls from people all over the world, and when I'd go places, celebrities would recognize me. I ran into Dr. Dre and Missy Elliot, and they said, 'You go get 'em, Michael C.' It was overwhelmingly cool."
He had no hesitation about returning to the show, considering he couldn't embarrass himself much further, and is excited by the idea of being part of "Runway" history.
"It's a privilege to be an all-star," he said, and with prizes that include a boutique within Neiman Marcus, a sewing studio, $100,000 in cash and office space, he asks, "Why not compete? I work best when I'm competing."
Costello is best known for flowing, draped creations, and on the TV show has been criticized for lack of sewing skills. At the same time, he's also dazzled other contestants with the speed at which he completes his projects.
"The thing is, I started sewing when I was 11. My mom taught me everything she knew. I do things now where she has to ask me, 'How do you do that?' all the time.
"I know how to pick fabrics and make things come alive in a way that stays true to what I do best."
Admittedly a fierce competitor who did what he had to do "to beat the other bitches back" in season eight, Costello seems much calmer as an all-star.
"When you go into these shows, you don't know who's going to be your friend, who you're gonna click with. I was already friends with Milla (Hermanovski), Jerell (Scott) and Gordana (Gehlhausen). Mondo and I developed a close relationship on season eight, so when you see your friends, you feel more comfortable."
Although the show has helped him develop a certain notoriety, he's working extra hard to capitalize on the moment, willing to travel across the country to promote fashion and his brand.
"If someone asks me, 'Can you be in Shreveport, La., for a fashion show? Well, yeah, I can because suddenly I'm known in Shreveport, La. The doors that 'Project Runway' has opened for me have been phenomenal. But you can't be a designer who sits at home and thinks the show is going to do something for you. The passion has to be there, and you have to do everything to make your dream come true.
"You have to be on your A game and you have to deliver, and I think I do that."
(c) 2012 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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