Walk into 24-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology menswear senior Max Kostaras’ design studio and, in addition to the usual design accoutrements, you’ll find: one drum set, four guitars, a couple of keyboards and a cello. Music is a constant influence on the born and raised New Yorker, who graduated from the city’s Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
“The thing about the fashion and music scenes that I’ve always found so inspiring is the freedom that it can afford people,” says Kostaras, reminiscing about the iconic imagery of legends such as Halston and Grace Jones mingling at venues like Studio 54 or the Paradise Garage. Kostaras also accredited modern master of creative cross-pollination, Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air, whose brand, followed by Kanye West, gained its footing through New York’s nightlife.
From his design standpoint, Kostaras’ two chief concerns are comfort and utility. “I’ll never sacrifice comfort for aesthetics,” he says. His most recent collection, for the 2016 Fusion Fashion Show was distinguished by cleverly laced and knotted ropes alongside effortlessly slung quilted panels. Ropes might seem an interesting choice for some but not Kostaras who, a semester before applying to FIT, had joined his family business working on different kinds of constructions. “Both are hands-on trades,” says Kostaras of his construction past. “All the men in my family are tile workers or carpenters, but I was always the guy who was super into music and painting.”
Despite Kostaras’ early artistic proclivities, the path to fashion wasn’t a clear one. During his senior year as an English and education student at Hunter College, Kostaras decided to study abroad in Rome. “Everyone that I became friends with there turned out to be working in fashion in some form,” says Kostaras. “So when I came back, I took a semester off to decide what I was going to do with my life and I knew ‘high school English teacher’ wasn’t my calling, so I wound up applying to FIT.”
In addition to wrapping up his final semester and hunting for jobs, Kostaras has another new challenge: womenswear. He’s currently at work designing a pair of trousers, exclusive to Designow Studio, a fashion incubation program based in New York City. “I’m really excited to be working with Designow,” says Kostaras. “It’s virtually unheard for young designers to be offered this sort of step-by-step feedback and I think it’s a great concept.”
Check out Kostaras’ experiments in both style and sound on his Instagram @beatsoflife