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He often draws from others’ images, sometimes photos, sometimes movies _ he loves movies! _ or maybe the architecture of a building, although never to the point of being obvious or literal. “I don’t take tear sheets from a magazine or specific movie pictures. I’m much more likely to notice and remember how something was shot or how it was made,” he explains.

Martine Reardon, chief marketing officer of Macy's, says she knew Costa was right to spearhead the project. “Francisco Costa is a visionary talent known for elegant and minimalist designs that are coveted around the world. His Brazilian heritage made him a natural choice for this special collaboration.”

One of the designer’s favorite looks for Macy's is a wrap dress that oozes the ease of a towel delicately wrapped around the body and pinned at the bust.

Yet nothing in his designs is taken for granted, not even something that seems simple. He considers the placement of a button, how low the armhole hangs, the exact color.

He does this at home, too: “I just painted my house in the country. I tried 18 kinds of white until I found that just-the-right shade.”

(He went with Pratt & Lambert Silver Lining.)

Neutrals almost always dominate the palette he uses in his collections but there are subtle differences in a particular season’s version of taupe or gray or black. He also likes the heat he’ll get from strategic use of a pop of yellow or pink.

“I love working with Francisco,” says Lara Stone, the spokesmodel of the Calvin Klein Collection. “He’s a perfectionist and knows exactly how to make a woman look her best. I always feel strong, sexy and confident in his designs.”

Working with top models and movie stars, and even working the red carpet himself has posed some of his greatest challenges in his Calvin Klein tenure. His training is in a craft not the media, after all. Costa attended fashion college courses in Rio, at the Fashion Institute of Technology when he moved to New York in 1985, and then worked for Oscar de la Renta.

The business side has come pretty naturally, too, Costa says, especially as he learns more about the changing luxury marketplace and the similarities and differences of customers who live all over the world. He loves to visit stores _ and numbers don’t scare him.

He’s not sure he’ll ever feel comfortable about the celebrity aspect of the business.

“I’m product-oriented. I know every seam, every detail. But I’ve also become a bit of a spokesman to the public, and I never thought that would be part of it, and I never thought about it before I had to do it,” Costa says. “But I also understand that more exposure means more dresses and more press. I just want the most talented, beautiful girls wearing the clothes and communicating how good she feels _ in your language _ to all the other women.”