Jeffrey Costello & Robert Tagliapietra, Closets
Jeffrey Costello & Robert Tagliapietra

There is no surer sign of knowing yourself than being comfortable enough and confident enough to adhere to the same style, year after year, decade after decade, and trend after trend. When Jeffrey and Robert met, they were dressed not unlike they are now-- in combat boots, blue jeans, suspenders, and plaid. Their love of uniform has its roots in the iconic men who inspire them, an "amalgam of male ideals" that incorporates everything from Jeffrey's farmer grandfather, who wore suits on occasion, to River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho. Through the years they and their styles have evolved and grown together. "We always looked similar," Robert says. "People always asked us if we were brothers." Jeffrey and Robert -- who can easily buy twenty pairs of classic Incotex trousers or make twenty vests from vintage Pendleton at once in order to satisfy their desire for a uniform -- see the women wearing their designs as inhabiting a character as comfortably as they do their own, someone comfortable enough to wear a "dress that has no time" until it is threadbare. "I hate the thought of someone buying a piece of clothing," says Robert, "For it to sit in a closet with a million other pieces of clothing. I want someone to fall in love with it."

The East Village of the '80s provided the perfect space for their "gay prep tribe identities" to emerge. "I love the early '80s," Jeffrey says. "That, to me, is when I came of age." For him, there is something "elegant and beautiful about the seediness of the time," when they were living out of Keith Haring's old apartment, passing Anne Bass in the middle of the night with armfuls of leather jackets as she left Ramrod picking things out of garbage cans. Characters lined up outside club doors had monumental style; once, Jeffrey recalls, he saw '80s fixture Sally Randall working the door at Palladium-- and refusing to let Andy Warhol in, he says, "because he was wearing beige."

"We grew up in a time when there were characters," and it is as much a part of the DNA of their brand as it is their style. Like their docksiders, and in clothing and painting, (which both Robert and Jeffrey have a background in) they love things artfully constructed and minimally designed, made for a strong personality to wear. For Jeffrey and Robert, there's always the thought of the history of something beautiful, where something originated from. "We love Anne Sexton," Robert says. "She was someone who lived such a huge life in such a short period of time. Towards the end, with the drinking and smoking, you saw that age on her face. For me, it was like her poetry. Her whole life was in that. Her entire, every single experience she had, was in what she looked like. That's beauty."

If you love Jeffrey & Robert, you may also like Bridget de Socio, Derek & Nate and James Ott.

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