Former Creative Director of Womenswear for Calvin Klein, Francisco Costa, is the man behind Costa Brazil, a new sustainable luxury beauty and lifestyle brand. To create the collection, Francisco traveled the Amazon Rainforest in his native Brazil living with indigenous tribes in the jungle where he discovered an untapped bounty of natural and botanical ingredients. The designer shares with us his travel adventures, secret rainforest ingredients, and most treasured possessions.
What inspired the move from fashion to beauty?
I was at Calvin Klein for 13 years and as a designer, you always feel the winds of change. I actually started Costa Brazil a year before I left. I was very inspired by the work of Italian artist Piero Manzino and his collection Artist’s Shit, a series of tins literally filled with shit and I loved the sense of humor of his art and I thought I have to do something with this. I was either going to do canned food or a lifestyle beauty brand.
How was the transition into the world of beauty?
The creation process is very similar. My brand book was heavily based on aesthetics and benchmarked to be a luxury lifestyle brand sold in spas. I then visited labs to learn about ingredients, the same way you go to mills to find the yarn. I was left disappointed by the ingredients I saw and thought maybe I should go back to Brazil.
Tell us about your jungle adventures?
I stayed with the Yawanawá tribe with the intent to smell and understand the forest and this was a lightning bolt moment and how the Costa Brazil brand was born. First I discovered breu resin, a sacred ancient ingredient that elevates your wellbeing and relieves anxiety. It had the most magnificent smell so I bought it back to the lab to see how it could be the signature scent of the brand. I was so fascinated by the untapped native ingredients of the Amazon, I went back to dig deeper and discovered Kaya, a superfood derived from the seeds of ancient sapucaia trees extracted into a cold-pressed oil that firms and nourishes the skin and is richer in antioxidants, minerals, micronutrients, and vitamin E than any other ingredient. And finally Cacay, an oil with powerful antioxidants and vitamin E and C, which is a natural retinol that firms skin and smoothes fine lines.
Do you plan to expand?
This is the beginning. People ask why I started with oils but these were the most beautiful things I could find and the three ingredients became my jungle complex, which goes into every product. The collection is created around rituals. We have the Skin Ritual featuring our Kaya Anti-Aging Face Oil, Kaya Jungle Body Firming Oil, and Crema Para O Corpo Body Cream. Then there is our Breathe Ritual, with our breu resin candles, which have a clean gorgeous foliage scent. We are planning to add a face cleanser, face serum, mineral face mist, face mask, and night cream to complement our skincare rituals
You recently met with Travel Curator’s founder, Melanie Brandman, at Shou Sugi Ban House in the Hamptons, how was your experience?
It’s an amazing spot. The experience is incredible and the food is exquisite, it made a real impact and was truly memorable. I love massages, to me they are like an exercise that makes you feel so energized. Costa Brazil is sold there, but I didn’t realize the spa has all these incredible rituals. I met with the shaman, Christina, and she really loves the line and brue and we are discussing how to potentially make it part of their rituals.
What else does your beauty routine involve?
I was never into lots of face creams, I usually just splashed water on my face, though I have always done dry body brushing. Now I use our Face Oil every day, it feels so good on my skin and you can literally smell nature.
Favorite travel destination?
I love Brazil, it’s pretty special because it’s so vast and the culture is so mixed, Rio always does it for me. Lençóis do Maranhão is a super inspiring place, with these incredibly beautifully natural salt baths. Bahia, beyond its beauty, has a strong sense of culture, religion and spirituality. I stayed at Hotel Fasano Salvador, a gorgeous 19th century building in the middle of the old city. I love Trancoso for its beaches, food and the unexpected. My other favorite hotels are Amangiri in Utah and Amansara in Cambodia.
Where is home now?
I just moved to my new house in Bellport. I’ve been coming here for 20 years over the summer, the lifestyle so easy and low key, the opposite to most of Long Island. I love to walk along the beach every morning and go to Isabella Rossellini’s organic farm in Brookhaven, she’s amazing, she has all these chickens running around and does these incredible farm-to-table dinners.
What’s your interior design style?
I love the simplicity of an environment and textures. I collect art and objects and the most fun part of designing is moving stuff around and seeing how your home changes. I have about three thousand books, and my most treasured objects are my art because they were either created by friends or given to me as gifts from friends. I have a piece Ellsworth Kelly gave me, something I bought from Elliott Puckette and now I have something from Nick Theobald. Other favorite artists are Burle Marx , Bruce Nauman and Cecily Brown.
And finally what’s in your wardrobe these days?
I have always had a wardrobe filled with jeans and white t-shirts. Then it became a closet filled with tuxedos, at one point I had to go out every night becoming this persona representing Calvin Klein collections. I like to keep my everyday life very casual, I’m a creature of habit so simple white shirts and denim.