Meet Your New Favourite Fashion Influencer

Costanza Pascolato, the doyenne of Brazilian fashion, is a huge star on social media


Costanza Pascolato has nearly 460,000 Instagram followers. Picture / Getty

Sao Paulo Fashion Week is packed to the rafters with bloggers, vloggers, Instagram movers-and-shakers and brassily self-titled “influencers”, but it is Costanza Pascolato who is being stopped by adoring fans wanting a selfie. At 77 she doesn’t necessarily fit the mould of the social media star. Her 458,000 Instagram followers, however, tell a different story.

“I used to be so, so be-you-tee-ful when I was young,” she says in her thick Brazilian accent, as she approves the lighting in the photograph on an admirer’s iPhone. Pascolato is refreshingly matter of fact about her good looks. “The first boyfriend I had told me that I was so beautiful, but if my legs were 5cm longer I could be the queen!”

The doyenne of Brazilian fashion has made quite a mark on the industry since leaving Italy aged 8. The Pascolatos moved after the war — it “had its complications”, she says, “having a father in politics” — to Brazil, where they started a new life in 1947. The following year, her parents founded Santa Constancia, a silk and textile manufacturer still owned by the family. Costanza and her mother travelled the world selling the textiles her father had lovingly manufactured. “We went to Chanel and then Saint Laurent, oh, and to Monsieur Dior.” She refers to the designers in the same familiar terms that most people would refer to their siblings.

Her mother, Gabriella, was also impossibly glamorous. They attended fashion shows together until Gabriella’s death in 2010.

Costanza fondly remembers a time during the war, living in Rome, when a seamstress would come to their house to make clothes for the family. “My mother went to answer the telephone and I was left by myself with the dressmaker. I started crying and saying that it was too long, too this, too that ... I had this eye for proportion from a very young age. For everything, form and proportion were the starting point.”

At school she was suspended for changing her uniform; she shortened the hem of her skirt and invented more decorative knots for the regulation tie. “I always worried about what I wore,” she says.

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Shape and form are buzzwords to which she keeps returning. When we meet at Sao Paulo Fashion Week, she’s wearing a voluminous Balenciaga textured silk peplum-style jacket paired with perfectly-tapered cigarette trousers. Her almost encyclopaedic knowledge of fashion is clear when she talks of the 1981 Comme des Garçons debut runway show as her “introduction to shape”. Comme was her sensei when it comes to form; following the catwalk show, she travelled to Japan to really look at proportion. It was like nothing she’d seen before, and she was quick to adopt the mantra for dressing that negative space is just as important as positive space. The idea being to look at the shape clothing creates for your body, but also to note the space around it; the area between your waist and your arms and the space below your jawline and above your shoulder.

Balenciaga was another designer she admires for his approach to form, but this time with first-hand experience. Between the ages of 17 and 21, Costanza’s mother had two couture dresses made for her each year. Costanza wore Dior to debutante balls and Pierre Cardin to corporate events, Pucci for family portraits, and Balenciaga to marry in. She describes her wedding dress as “very simple, almost sporty. It was the one with the round sleeve . . . you know, just the standard Balenciaga,” she says without irony. “Mine wasn’t spectacular, because I got married in the morning and my husband was Anglican.” She rolls her eyes at this; I start to imagine what she might have worn had she married a Catholic.

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Costanza is late for her next show and refuses to let her fans wait. She thanks me for my time, before striding off in her Adidas Stan Smith trainers.

“I hope to be that cool when I’m 77,” I say, perhaps a little too audibly. “I’m not perfect any more,” she says with a wry smile. “I know where the differences lie ... ”

COSTANZA'S SECRETS TO TIMELESS STYLE

• Choose a colour you really love and stick with it, even if something else is fashionable.

• You have to learn to like what you see in the mirror. Really look in the mirror and even if you don’t like what you see at first, you have to learn how to like it.

• I always start with something black, I use it as my base, my canvas. I throw colour and form against it.

• I can’t live without black trousers. My current favourites are from COS, they’re elastic at the waist, almost skinny, but not quite. I have 20 pairs of them.

• I have less hair than when I was younger. Aged 69, I started doing it the way I do today. I set it myself every morning. On a good day it takes about eight minutes, on bad days it can be up to 15. I go to the hairdressers to have it brushed once a week and use Kerastase’s Revitalising Kit with caviar monthly.

• My glasses are part of the look I invented when I was 69. I wore a lot of Prada and Miu Miu spectacles, then switched to Celine. I also love the light Face a Face and France Minois.

• When it comes to footwear, I feel it’s better not to be too dressed up. Today, I prefer being discreet. I suffer from arthritis, so I am always trying to find new, comfortable shoes. The best formal shoes are Manolo Blahniks. He does a very open, classic style, which is elegant and has a heel that is easy to wear.

— Sophie Warburton

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