Calvin Klein's creative director Francisco Costa is no stranger to sexy bodies – he does work with the world's top models after all – but there is a limit to how much skin he cares to see. "I mean, I go to Brazil and everybody is showing their bellies," said the designer at a discussion held at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology last week. "I feel it's really vulgar. If everyone had a beautiful belly, maybe it'd be a different story. If you have beautiful knees, show your knees. I'm not a puritan. I love skin."

After the jump: More of Francisco's discussion with F.I.T.'s Valerie Steele and an exclusive Q&A with


"I'm from a really small town 350km from Rio. It was really baroque with cobblestone streets. My mother was very fashion-oriented and she started a little children's wear business that became large in this little town. She used to be able to look at a picture of an outfit and just start cutting the fabric right there. "

"I remember one of the first things I designed was a red and burgundy jumper. And I insisted that it was made by the best tailor in town."

"I came to New York in 1986. My father didn't think it was a good idea. I didn't know how I found it, but I went to Hunter College. I had no money and I couldn't speak English. I came back to Brazil and told my father that I was going to study English and Fashion and he said 'Are you out of your mind?' I started taking Continuing Ed courses at FIT so it's amazing to be here tonight. This is really the beginning of it all."

"I consider myself so lucky to have gone there [to work with Tom Ford in Milan]. I got a call from a headhunter. And I had no idea what a headhunter was. They wouldn't tell me who the designer was. I said, 'I don't need a job. I'm happy in New York. So just tell me who the designer is, I'm not going to take it anyways.' Then she told me and I did a project for them. The first collection we worked on was the Cher-inspired collection with jeans with feathers. There was so much press around it. Tom understands the big picture."

"You think 24-7 when you're a creative person. And I find pleasure in everything -- if I'm in a flea market, I'm there on my downtime, but I'm also there searching for the collection. I don't separate the two."

"If you think about the 30s and historically, there have been great times of stress and also great spirit in design at the same time. I don't think designers can hold back. I mean, you have to be realistic, but you should make things that are desirable. If there's a reason to buy it, it has to be genuinely exciting."


What do you think of the turnout?
It's so cool. I didn't expect it to be full. It's kind of emotional being back here because FIT opened up the door for me. I feel like it's such a democratic school and I felt so free to explore and I was never shut down. There was never a 'no.'

You've worked with so many fashion heavyweights. What do you take away from those experiences?
I don't know about Bill Blass, but with Tom, Oscar, and Calvin, there's a relentlessness with all of them. There's always a search and it's not that nothing was ever good enough for them, but it's something like that.

What sort of reception do you get when you go back to Brazil? Are you the Gisele of your town?
[Laughs] In my hometown, yes. They used to put signs all over the city welcoming me, it was hysterical. It's a tiny town outside of Rio, so it's really sweet. Now I come unannounced, but my sister still makes me go to every single aunt's house.