These days, designer duo Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra are less about the stars and all about the stripes.
Having made their name with couture women’s wear and a celebrity client list that included Madonna, Oprah Winfrey and Catherine Zeta Jones, they shuttered their label, Costello Tagliapietra, in 2014 to refocus on affordable men’s wear.
Specifically eye-catching plaid shirts.
Their year-old direct-sale brand, JCRT, offers checkered patterns influenced by books, album covers, and even video games.
“For us, JCRT is about offering plaids that felt different than the ones we could find on the market,” says Costello, “Ones with less traditional color combinations and more details that make them feel special.”
“We’ve been fans of Stephin Merritt forever,” Costello gushes. “He has an open invitation for a completely custom version, of course—or anything really!” (Magnetic Fields also appear on a Plaid Mix-Tape playlist you can listen to while shopping online.)
The duo’s most recent items include t-shirts, boxers, vests, and a quartet of summery short-sleeve shirts inspired by the state flags of Nevada, Massachusetts, Iowa and Ohio. While each design is boldly unique, they can often work together.
“The beauty of working without limitations now is that we can always revisit and reinterpret edited plaids and release them at a later date,” Costello says.
Most of the button-down shirts are in the $125 range, and the more-approachable price point was key when launching JCRT. Their 2010 budget-conscious collaboration with Uniqlo resulted in ten dresses and proved deeply satisfying.
“One of the most standout moments of our career was people-watching once when we were stuck in midtown traffic,” Costello recalls. “I saw a young woman getting onto her bike wearing one of the Uniqlo dresses. That felt, in some ways, like more of an achievement than any of the red carpet appearances. Because she chose that piece and wore it in a much different way than the customers of the high-end boutiques consume and wear them.”
The direct-sales model lets Tagliapietra and Costello be more inclusive to guys their build, offering shirts in sizes from XS up to 4XL in a variety of fits. (The cuts have geographic names like “Brooklyn,” “Portland” and “Wyoming.”)
It also offers the guys, who married in 2011, a more ethical approach to fashion.
“Without sweatshops,” Tagliapietra insists. “Creating tailors not sewers. It’s about educating our employees, and empowering them to grow with this new technology and brand along with us.”
Vogue once dubbed the bear-y couple the “lumberjacks of fashion” and, while red-carpet moments aren’t in their sights anymore, notables like Hank Azaria, Daniel Franzese, skater Brian Anderson and Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Michael Chernus have all donned JCRT’s plaids.
Even their Manhattan workspace has a glamorous pedigree—it once housed the legendary New York nightclub Tunnel.
Shop JCRT here.